While we were in Costa Rica we spent two weeks volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary called Osa Santuario De Animales. We loved it so much we thought it deserved its own post. The rest of Costa Rica can wait until the next post. We also found out that animals are very hard to get good photos of as they never stop moving, so not all of the animals are featured as their photos didn’t come out.
The animal sanctuary is run by Mike, an American who started out running a dog neutering clinic to try and control the rampant stray dog population, and Dania, a full-time helper. They accept and look after animals that have been injured, whose mothers have been killed, who have been seized by police raids on the illegal animal trade or ones that used to be pets. This last category is a common one as in Costa Rica it is illegal to domesticate any native animal. The aim is always to eventually release the animals back into the wild and Mike only keeps some animals that would never survive in the wild.
Animal sanctuaries generally don’t receive any sort of funding except for the money they receive from tours and donations (well at least none of the ones that we visited in Central America).
Rico the Red-lored Parrot
Rico was a very strange parrot. Very unique with lots of personality. Since birds are such intelligent animals, it is not uncommon for them to develop emotional problems. Lots of parrots have issues with people of certain genders – squawking at women and lovely towards men or vice versa. Rico was very quick to judge who he liked and who he didn’t but there didn’t seem to be any reasoning behind how he chose his enemies. He instantly took to me but not so much Sean. He was even jealous if I spent too much time with the other animals and would bite me if I was holding him when Sean came near. He loved being flipped upside down and tickled on the tummy and would ruffle up his neck feathers and edge towards you suggesting that he wanted a neck scratch. If you ignored him (or tried to do any work) he would nibble and peck at you until you gave in.
Sweetie the Racoon
Sweetie used to be a house pet until she got too big and rowdy and her owner handed her in. Even though she looks cute and “sweet” raccoons are smelly, dirty and can get fierce. We had to change her water bucket twice a day as this was her favourite place to eat… and defecate. As soon as her water was changed she would excitedly jump in and waggle around in it. Not too long afterwards it would be brown again. Apparently they usually dip their food in water before eating it because raccoons don’t produce saliva.
Pablo and Coco the White Face Monkeys
While White Faces can get aggressive towards humans when they are fully grown, Pablo and Coco were still young enough to be playful and very friendly. Pablo got his name as he came to the sanctuary after being rescued by the police during a drug bust. They loved jumping and climbing all over us but the only way they would stay still was if you groomed them – pretending to look for bugs under their fur that, living at the sanctuary, they obviously don’t have. They would climb up to the roof of their cage and jump onto your head from a great height when you weren’t looking. Once they clung to your head they didn’t like letting go…
Sweetie the Kinkajou
Another Sweetie! This one was named before the racoon came along. She was also named when she was very young and it now turns out that Sweetie is a boy. Everyone was so used to thinking of Sweetie as a girl that the “she”s kind of stuck. She/he is a nocturnal animal so s/he usually spent most of her/his time in the sleeping box. She (I give up) would always pop her head up out of the box when it was feeding time though. On one of our last days she was in a strangely energetic mood and started running around her cage all day. When we went in to do some poo-scooping, she attached herself to the rake and started climbing all over us. Cute but also scary since her claws and teeth are razor sharp. She had “playfully” sunken her teeth into Dania’s leg the week before.
Goma the Anteater
But everyone’s favourite was Goma the baby anteater. He was a super friendly ball of fuzz. As soon as you opened his cage he would come running over to you and climb onto your back from his tree branch. Once he was one you he was almost impossible to get off. You had to pry him off your hand and then run to the door as he would be snuffling along and chasing you to the door. He loved attention because he was still a baby at only 6 months and came to the sanctuary after his mother was killed. He needs a special diet of blended up spinach, yogurt, vinegar, milk and termites. We would take him for walks around the garden where he could practice digging up ant’s nests for himself. Their technique is to dig into an ant’s nest and eat the first lot of ants that come running out but to stop and move on to another nest quickly so as to not get attacked by the full army of ants. He also had a super long tongue that he would use to lick at anything that he thought could be housing ants. Usually this was your ear.
Bubba the Cuati
Bubba has been with Mike for a long time, even before he had an animal sanctuary. He has had a long and mischievous life which includes attacking a T.V presenter who came to do an Animal Planet documentary on Bubba. He is very territorial and we couldn’t enter his cage but he has be known to warm to people if they stand their ground and don’t flinch when he comes at them, a pretty much impossible feat. His favourite pastimes are scaring people as they enter the sanctuary and having a good swing in his hammock.
Blossom the Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine
Blossom was one of the friendliest animals in the sanctuary. She is nocturnal and is very shy during the day but will pop out of her house to say hello every now and again. She was very spiny so getting her out of her cage to clean it out was a bit of a task as was trying to stroke her without getting a handful of spines. She was also very picky with her food and usually only ate corn or the occasional strawberry.
The Squirrel Monkeys
The Squirrel Monkeys were much shier than the white face monkeys and a bit less interested in humans. They would hide up in the rafters when we fed them but sometimes they would come down to greet us. There was also a baby Squirrel Monkey that lives in a cage out the front and is very successful at luring in people for tours of the sanctuary. He came to the sanctuary after a woman found him in her house. She first saw him alone in her backyard but left him alone assuming that his mother would come back. A few hours later she came into the kitchen to see him trying to eat a banana on the front counter.
And Some Others
The owl was new arrival and hadn’t been named yet. It sadly had part of its wing amputated and would probably never fly again. It was only a baby although it was already quite big – fully grown they are truly giant. Oscar the baby Cuati was adorable but had unlimited energy and would never sit still. Like all coatis he loves to play, which usually results in small cuts all over your hands when you handle him. Worth it though! The squirrel on the right is named Jose and was full of personality. He was released while we were there and was hanging around the sanctuary chasing the Spider Monkeys, stealing food and generally causing mischief. Some animals like Jose are released at the sanctuary and hang around until they are comfortable with their new found freedom and move away. Some animals even come back to visit. There is also big cages deeper in the jungle where animals can acclimatize to the environment before getting released away from civilisation.
If you are ever in Costa Rica be sure to visit the sanctuary and get a tour.