Cover Story – The Heart of Costa Rica: Sanctuaries and Wildlife Rescues
Costa Rica boasts an incredible array of biodiversity. A couple hundred thousand animal species call this place home, and that’s not even counting the insects! Over 80% of the earth’s land animals live in the tropics. The rainforests provide the necessary habitat for such biodiversity: Plants grow much faster in rainforests than in more temperate climates, bringing in herbivores with a tasty smorgasbord of options. Because there are more herbivores, there are also more carnivores. The tropics present a rich environment for hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals to survive and thrive.
Along with the sheer numbers of animals in this area come a lot of animals in need. Some are injured in their natural habitat by whatever Mother Nature throws at them, and others by humans impeding on their once sacred space. Some are injured by human error, such as a motor vehicle accident, and we can only hope not malicious intent. No matter the reason, as Costa Rica grows, its animals are being affected. Gratefully, people have responded to the ever-growing need for wildlife care by opening and running animal sanctuaries and rescue centers across the country, and we can only hope to offer them support by people shining light on the issue.
Costa Rica’s network of sanctuaries and wildlife rescues help protect wounded and vulnerable animals and nurse them back to health. Some focus on select species while most care for local wildlife in general. I wish I could say that all sanctuaries and animal rescue centers operate with the highest of ethics and the absolute best interests of their animal patients, but just like anything else, that is not always the case. Most here that we have encountered appear to be on the up-and-up though, and many of the smaller ones are run by passionate people driven by their love of the animals. We do encourage you to seek these out, and show them your support.
Ranging from large, species-specific facilities to small local ones, no clear numbers tell us just how many of these wildlife facilities exist here; we just know there are a lot. You can easily run across one along your way elsewhere if you’re paying attention, and these centers can offer memories to treasure for a lifetime. They can also offer sightings of wildlife that you might not see traipsing through the jungle along the designated path. The people who run and work at these centers also extend all kinds of information about the animals, their habits, and habitats, which can help you more easily spot them in the wild.
So if you want to see some of Costa Rica’s exotic animals first-hand and learn more about them, visit one or more of these sanctuaries and wildlife centers. Just please always remember that the animals are not here for your amusement and entertainment, and in most cases, should not be touched or fed. Please show the utmost respect for the creatures with whom we coexist and the centers dedicated to their protection.
Below is a sampling of Costa Rica’s vast network of wildlife rescue centers and sanctuaries.
1. Diamante’s Animal Sanctuary
Diamante’s Animal Sanctuary is Guanacaste’s largest and was constructed in partnership with La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Guests can interact with animals with up-close viewing and even attend a feeding. Diamante is home to the largest variety of species in one location. The residents in the animal sanctuary are all rescue animals and include: sloths, monkeys, pumas, jaguars, toucans and more. Diamante has dozens of species of frogs, snakes, birds and a world class butterfly observatory. All rescue animals were donated by MINAE, the Costa Rican Ministry of Wildlife. In many cases the animals were held in less-than-adequate facilities and faced difficult circumstances.
Address: Guanacaste, Playa Matapalo
Phone: 2105 5200
Hours: Mon-Sat 1st Tour 9:30am, 2nd Tour 11:30pm
Entrance fee: $20 per adult, child under 12 free
More Diamante Articles
2. SIBU Wildlife Sanctuary
The SIBU Wildlife Sanctuary rescues injured and orphaned animals, and provides emergency veterinary services. They rehabilitate animals as they can, then release them back into the jungle when they are strong, healthy, and old enough. They promote wildlife as invaluable to the community.
Address: Guanacaste, Nosara
Hours: Daily 7:00am-5:00pm
Entrance fee: Donation $65 per person
3. Nosara Refuge for Wildlife
The Refuge for Wildlife cares for injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife from the Nosara region and Nicoya Peninsula. Housing primarily howler monkeys, they also receive and care for a wide variety of other species. Their Emergency Response Team responds to over 200 wildlife emergencies annually, and is trained to handle monkeys and other wildlife damaged by whatever natural or human-involved cause. Their specialty is the howler monkey, so they receive members of this species from all over Costa Rica.
Address: Guanacaste, Nosara
Phone: 2682 5049
Hours: Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
Entrance fee: Donation of $50 per person
4. Centro de Rescate las Pumas
The mission of the Puma Rescue Center is to rescue, rehabilitate, and guarantee the quality of life Costa Rica’s wildlife, promoting the respect and appreciation of these animals and providing education about them to the public. The center houses primarily felines, but a small sampling of other creatures also calls this place home at the moment.
Address: Guanacaste, 4.5Km from Cañas
Phone: 2669 6019
Hours: Daily 8:00am – 4:00pm
Entrance fee: $12 per adult, $8 per child under 12
5. Proyecto Asis
Proyecto Asis focuses on wildlife protection, environmental conservation, and fostering positive cultural exchanges. The Animal Rescue Center there strives to provide animals with care and respect during rehabilitation. They aim to build a new environmental consciousness—indeed a more environmentally conscious global citizen–through their volunteer programs and Spanish classes.
Address: Alajuela, San Carlos
Phone: 2475 9121
Hours: Mon-Sat 1stTour 8:30am, 2ndTour1:00pm
Entrance fee: $31 per person, $18per child under 9
6. Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center
The Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center is dedicated to protect and help endangered Costa Rican wildlife with all means available. Their first and foremost goal is to ensure the welfare of the animals at the center and help them recover from both physical and psychological wounds that have arisen from their past suffering. The mission of the Rescue Center is based on three steps: Rescue – Rehabilitation – Release. Many biologists, zoologists, vets and nurses come to volunteer at the Rescue Center.
Address: Alajuela, San Miguel de Turrucares
Phone: 8892 6771
Hours: Daily 9:00am-12:00am, 2:00pm-4:00pm
Entrance fee: $10 per adults, 5$ per child
7. Toucan Rescue Ranch
The Toucan Rescue Ranch’s (TRR) mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release Costa Rican wildlife. TRR works with a model that focuses on conservation, education and research so a brighter tomorrow is promised to the incredible animals of Costa Rica’s rainforests. The Toucan Rescue Ranch is a rescue center specializing in toucans, but also rescues and houses a wide range of birds, raptors, and other wildlife from around the country. TRR works alongside MINAE, the wildlife Costa Rican governing agency, on the rescue and release of all wildlife under the center’s care. The Ranch operates thanks to a small staff, volunteers and interns who provide the utmost care for resident rescues, new arrivals and release candidates. They are a dedicated Costa Rican Foundation and U.S. nonprofit for Costa Rica conservation.
Address: Heredia, San Isidro de Heredia
Phone: 2268 4041
Hours: 1stTour 9:00am, 2ndTour 2:00pm
Entrance fee: $35 per person, $18 per child under 10
8. Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge
This is an out of the way place and hard to get to with not much information. We think it would be an awesome adventure. We will personally check it out soon and complete a write up.
The area protected has a hot and humid climate with no dry season, and is the habitat of the endangered West Indian Manatee as well as many caymans, crocodiles, and fish. It is also home to a variety of tapirs, jaguars, cougars, monkeys, ocelots, and other mammals. Birds found includes osprey, toucans, cormorants, herons, hawks, and many more.
Address: Limón, Sarapiqui
Phone: 5018 5988
Hours: Daily 8:00am – 4:00pm
Entrance fee: $15 per person
Facebook: Refugio nacional de fauna silvestre Barra del Colorado
9. Tree of Life Costa Rica
The Tree of Life Costa Rica is a wildlife rescue center and botanical garden located in Cahuita, on the Caribbean side. They assist animals in need of refuge due to loss of habitat, accidents, or pet trade or hunting. When possible, they rehabilitate the animals and release them back into the wild. They also have a breeding program for turtles and iguanas, for eventual release into the wild. They promote conservation through environmental education at local schools, promoting the mantra Think Globally, Start Locally to this developing generation.
Address: Limon, Cahuita
Hours: Tue-Sun One Tour per day 11:00am
Entrance fee: $15 per person, 8$ under 12
10. The Sloth Sanctuary
The world’s first sloth-only rescue facility, the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica is located on the Caribbean coast, 15 minutes north of Cahuita. Their mission is the rescue, rehabilitation, research and care of injured, orphaned and abandoned sloths. They offer educational tours that allow guests to experience this enigmatic mammal. Friendly, approachable guides explain the sloths’ behaviors, unique physiology and habitat. There is no touching or holding the sloths due to a stress response they experience when held by unfamiliar people.
Address: Limon, 11km North of Cahuita
Phone: 2750 0775
Hours: Tue-Sun 8:00am-2:00pm (1 tour per hour)
Entrance fee: $30 per person, $15 per child under 12
11. Jaguar Rescue Center
The Jaguar Rescue Center is a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured and orphaned animals. With a focus on birds, reptiles, amphibians and small primates, the JRC provides veterinary services, round-the-clock care and comfort to animals that would otherwise be unable to survive in the rainforest or the sea of the Caribbean, in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limón.
The primary goal of the JRC is to rehabilitate animals and reintroduce them back into their native habitats. Monkeys, birds, sloths, snakes and more are brought to the JRC and treated by professional veterinarians, caregivers and a hard-working team of staff and volunteers. When they are healed and healthy, most animals are reintroduced to their native habitats. The JRC also offers internship and research opportunities for biologists, veterinarians and researchers from around the world.
Address: Limón, Puerto Viejo
Phone: 2750 0710
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:00am-1.30pm
Entrance fee: $20 per person (Children under 10 get free entrance)
12. The Sloth Institute
Located in Manuel Antonio, the Sloth Institute dedicates itself to helping the sloth. They focus on research, education and release of hand-raised sloths back to the rainforest. They also collaborate with the Toucan Rescue Ranch for orphaned sloth release. This is a wonderful organization, however they are not open to the public.
Please consider a donation ~ Ways to fund ~
13. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
The Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary receives animals that the government of Costa Rica confiscates from any type of illegal situation, usually the illegal pet trade or illegal domestication. They also receive wounded, abandoned or orphaned baby and adult animals. Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animals back to their natural habitat and to provide sanctuary for those animals that cannot be returned to the wild because of disability, injury or severe over-domestication. They also work to educate and enlighten the people of the world about the amazing animals of Costa Rica!
Address: Puntarenas, Dominical
Phone: 2200 5440
Hours: 9:00 –11:00 am, 1:00 – 3:00 pm – 1.5 hours tours, Closed Mondays
Entrance fee: Min donation $25 per adult, $15 per child under 12
14. Osa Wildlife Sanctuary
Located on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary (Fundacion Santuario Silvestre de Osa) provides rescue and rehabilitation to injured, orphaned, and displaced animals indigenous to Costa Rica’s southern zone. They work with the local community, local businesses and government to offer the best care available, and strive to contribute actively and positively to their local community.
Address: Puntarenas, Piedras Blancas National Park
Phone: 8861 1309
Hours: 1 tour Daily 9:00 am
Entrance fee: Donation $25 per person
Disclaimer: We can not 100% validate all information. Please confirm and verify with your best effort before venturing.
Remember this is Costa Rica, relax and enjoy the experience… it might not be what you planned or intended… it could be much better!
Photos Courtesy of the relevant Sanctuary or Wildlife Rescue Institute.