“Don’t touch anything in the forest,” a guide says to an eager-listening group of visitors on a sunny day in the rainforest of Caribbean Costa Rica.
“The forest is like a museum,” he adds. “You don’t touch anything.”
This is the main lesson a visit to the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica teaches those who visit – that the forest is full of treasures just as valuable as any artifact found in the world’s grandest museums, and that it is our duty to protect them.
The Jaguar Rescue Center
Located in Puerto Viejo, a small beach town with hippy vibes on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, the Jaguar Rescue Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals. Since its opening in 2008, the center has re-released more than 50 monkeys back into the wild, to name just a few of the center’s success stories.
The center was founded by two biologists from Barcelona who moved to Costa Rica to pursue their passion for wildlife protection. They named the center after a baby Jaguar they nursed back to health following the murder of its mother.
“The Jaguar is the most hunted endangered animal in the Americas,” the founders write on the center’s website. “It’s a symbol of nature that suffers from a great threat of extinction.”
The center is not a zoo, and the goal for all animals they take in is to release them back into the wild. Though there are no jaguars at the center today, there are plenty of cute animals galore. Come with me and let’s take a tour at the center’s latest residents.
The Jaguar Rescue Center houses three of Costa Rica’s four monkey species, including howler, spider and capuchin monkeys. Just like in the wild, all species of monkeys here live together and get along. The main reason the monkeys are here is because of injuries sustained when they confused power lines for branches.
Fun fact: Only monkeys from the Americas can hang from their tails. Monkeys in Asia and Africa cannot.
There are two types of sloths in Costa Rica, and both can be found at the center. The two species are the 2-toed sloth and 3-toed sloths. The color of fur and shape of face are the two main differences between these two species.
The majority of sloths at the sanctuary are also here because of injuries sustained from power lines.
This precious baby anteater is also the victim of electrocution. Unfortunately, not only was he physically injured, he was mentally injured as well. Wires got crossed in his brain and he now has difficulty following a straight path and walks in circles.
There are 22 types of venomous snakes in Costa Rica, many of which are housed at the center.
Of the 600 snake bites that are reported in Costa Rica this year, 300 are from one species — the fer-de-lance snake, Costa Rica’s most venomous snake.
There are no alligators in Central America, only caimans and crocodiles, both of which are found here.
Fun fact: Reptiles cannot zigzag. If you find yourself chased by a reptile, zig to avoid them.
Cats of Costa Rica
Costa Rica has six native cat species. Many of the cats who are at the sanctuary were formerly kept illegally as pets.
The center’s youngest cat is either an oncilla or a margay. Right now he is too young to tell the difference.
During my visit, the center was also housing an ocelot, the second largest cat species in Costa Rica.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Frogs are an important sign of a healthy ecosystem because they breathe air through their skin. If the air is healthy there will be more frogs.
The Jaguar Rescue Center has a pond on-site that is home to dozens of red-eyed tree frogs, Costa Rica’s most famous frog species, who camouflage into the green frogs of the forest.
Owls mate for life. Learning such a fact caused one young woman in our tour group to exclaim, “Aww!!! I want to be an owl.”
Seeing the center’s two owl species may lead you to agree. The spectacled owl here was even watching over a baby chick.
Of all the cute animals at the Jaguar Rescue Center, the monkey babies really take the cake. Deprived of their own mothers by tragedy, the babies here are in dire need of human interaction and love. The volunteers at the center take care of them as a mother would, not by petting but by letting them crawl all over their bodies. Can you say, Best. Job. Ever.
Jaguar Rescue Center Volunteers
The rehabilitation of these beautiful animal species would not be possible without the center’s many volunteers. Volunteers stay for a minimum of three weeks to help with cleaning and facility maintenance, diet preparation, training and observations within the rescue center. Interested in volunteering? You can find more information here.
Jaguar Rescue Center Tours
To see all these wonderful species up close, you can take a tour of the Jaguar Rescue Center while visiting Puerto Viejo. Tours are offered from Monday to Saturday twice daily in Spanish and English at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. The tour price is $18 and all proceeds go to the care of the animals. Private tours are also available.
Support the Jaguar Rescue Center
During my visit I was blown away by the genuine love and care all the volunteers displayed for the animals onsite. If you are not in Costa Rica and would still like to support the great work of the Jaguar Rescue Center, you can make a donation here. For more information, call +506 2750 0710 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.