A Window to Animal Conservation in Costa Rica: Visiting 4 Rescue Centres

In honour of International Sloth Day, I thought I’d share some of the incredible Animal Sanctuaries that we’ve visited in Costa Rica. There is some great work happening across the country to conserve, rehabilitate and educate.

We’ve visited four different Animal Sanctuaries and each of them providing a unique and memorable experience.

Las Pumas Rescue Centre

The first rescue we visited was Las Pumas Rescue Centre which we serendipitously stumbled upon on our way home from Tamarindo. The Centre receives these animals as orphans or illegal pets. They have parrots, monkeys, toucans, pumas, ocelots, and white-tailed deer. Unfortunately, most of the animals have physical or behavioural limitations and are unable to be released into the wild.

This rescue, as indicated by the name, focused mostly on wild cats. You definitely wouldn’t want to come across these guys in the wild, so it was nice to get an up-close and safe view of them. I really wanted to get a good photo (doin’ it for the ‘gram), so I stuck my phone in between two fence links and nearly had it stolen by a hungry (and nearly blind) ocelot. Not my smartest moment, I’ll admit.

We were able to walk around the property on our own which I really liked. Each enclosure had signs about each animal, how they arrived at the centre and how they have been cared for. Every creature has a story and it generally isn’t a good one. However, it helps to know that they are now in a place that provides proper nutrition, stimulation, and somewhat of a natural environment.

The Sloth Sanctuary

On our way to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, we made a little pit stop at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. This place was high on my list as I have only seen sloths in the wild so far… which mostly just looks like a furry tree lump.

At the Sloth Sanctuary, you do a 2ish hour tour. The first part is a boat ride through little rivers through a dense forest. We spotted a little caiman crocodile swimming alongside us in the river and a couple of wild sloths up high in the trees. We also found several green Basilisk lizards, the little guys that run across water.

After cruising through the rivers, you visit with some sloths in their Learning Centre. The tour guide talked to us about the different types of sloths and what the greatest risk to sloths are (spoiler alert: it’s humans). It is quite sad hearing the stories of the sloths and how they ended up at the centre. Whether it is through electrocution, being hit by cars or kept as pets, human interference is negatively impacting the livelihood of sloths. This centre has two young two-fingered female sloths that were orphaned and now, identify as each others mother. Sad and cute all rolled into one.

Jaguar Rescue Centre

The Jaguar Rescue Centre has probably been my favourite so far. It is a volunteer-run rescue centre that has quite a large property where they focus on rehabilitating animals to release back into the wild. The irony with this place is that they don’t actually have any jaguars. Although, the animals that they have do have all depends on the animals in need.

To visit the rescue centre, there is a tour that you join where a volunteer walks you around the property, showing other volunteers caring for the animals in the most special ways. They also have a TON of the baby sloths and baby monkeys. I could not pull myself away from the baby sloths. Gosh, they are cute.

Toucan Rescue Ranch

Most recently, I visited the Toucan Rescue Ranch which is only half an hour from my house (depending on traffic). They have the best tour: ‘Slothies and Coffees’. In this tour, they provide breakfast and coffee and bring out the baby sloths. So you essentially drink delicious coffee and watch sloths play around and eat breakfast. THE BEST! It also includes a tour of the rest of the ranch where they have toucans, monkeys, an otter (Queen Emma), and owls.

I have to admit…I hate birds. In my opinion, birds are not to be trusted. BUT, the Toucans that they had at this rescue were pretty incredible and fascinating. It helped that they were in cages and couldn’t get me. The ranch generally receives the toucans after they have been kept as pets in very small cages. This causes them to have trouble flying and results in the inability to release them into the wild. However, they do have a breeding program, so they are able to release all the baby Toucans into the wild.

During this tour, I had to take a work call and ended up missing the end of the tour. This is where they brought out even more baby sloths. THEN there was a surprise engagement of two people on the tour. I’m not a big fan of public engagements but if you are going go that route, in front of baby sloths is an excellent choice.

If you are interested, the annual Sloth Ironman games are launching TODAY. Don’t miss the 1-metre race, the poop-off or the hibiscus eating contest. Head over to their Instagram account @toucanrescueranch to check it out. I have my money on this guy.

I love animals and I love to see the conservation and rehabilitation work being done locally. The illegal pet market seems to be alive and well here which means there are many wild animals being kept in unhealthy environments, tortured for the entertainment and pleasure of humans. Moral of the story, humans are terrible and sloths (and other animals) are the best.

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