A while back a friend of mine on Facebook posted an article about a sloth rescue center in Costa Rica. I checked it out and while the article itself was positive, there were some negative comments about how the animals were being exploited for tourism and not being treated or rehabilitated properly.
I always take comments with a grain of salt, however, reading them did make me cautious about visiting animal rescue centers, because I never want to directly or inadvertently contribute to the exploitation or neglect of any animal.
Despite the criticisms out there, I still wanted to visit a center here in Costa Rica if they were taking the proper procedures to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife. As an animal lover, the thought of this intrigued me and it was in the back of my mind for a while. Living in such a biodiverse country it was impossible not to consider. I decided if the opportunity arose, I was going to take it and visit.
We recently had a three night stay in Puerto Viejo this past January. Having a full day to explore Puerto Viejo itself, I researched things to do in the area. One of the results of my search was the Jaguar Rescue Center.
The online reviews for this rescue center from multiple sources were glowing. Since it was our first visit to the area, and we had several other things on our agenda that day, we opted to do the public tour, which lasts about an hour and a half. It’s inexpensive, especially considering what you get in return is priceless. The $20 USD tour fee is a donation that goes directly to the foundation for the care of the rescued animals you visit, so it is well worth the money spent.
A Small Start With Big Hearts
The Jaguar Rescue Foundation was started by animal lovers and experts Encar Garcia Vila and Sandro Alviani in 2008 (after years of caring for animals that were brought to them in their home), and it has grown to what it is today due to the tireless work and dedication of the couple, their staff, and many volunteers.
The foundation is named after a sick and orphaned baby jaguar that was brought to them that did not survive despite their efforts.
The Rescue Center is built around Sandro’s and Encar’s home. This is where the rescued animals live while they are being healed, cared for, and rehabilitated. There is a nursery there to care for the significant number of orphaned baby animals that are constantly brought to the rescue center by private individuals as well as the Costa Rican authorities. There are terrariums for the rescued snakes and big enclosures for the monkeys, crocodiles, cats and birds.
Encar and Sandro eventually acquired some land 3 miles away from the rescue center for a second location which they named La Ceiba. It functions as a release area for animals who have been rehabilitated and are ready to be reintroduced into the wild.
Sadly, Sandro passed away in February of 2016, but his spirit and memory live on through this wonderful foundation.
Pick Your Experience
The Jaguar Rescue Foundation has several different well thought-out options of tours and types of interactions with their program and the animal rescues. It ranges from a simple public tour at the rescue center to their adventuresome night tours at La Ceiba, the foundation’s 49-hectare forest property where rehabilitated rescues are released into their natural habitat. For those serious animal lovers, they have combo packages, including a program where approved volunteers can care for and interact with the animals.
The encounters with wild life are up close and personal, done in a professional and responsible manner, honoring the animal.
Jaguar Rescue Center Public Tour
Although their public tour is only an hour and a half, for me it felt satisfyingly longer because I was completely immersed in watching the animals and listening to the history of the Jaguar Rescue Center (told eloquently by our guide Dexter) as well as to how they acquire, care for, and rehabilitate the animals.
While on this tour, you will see rescued sloths, peccaries, anteaters, toucans, monkeys, reptiles, birds, and mid-size wild cats. Many of these animals come to the center as babies who were orphaned when his or her mother was killed, often times by electrical lines and other such hazards. Some of them were extracted from homes where people illegally kept them as pets. Others were victims of trafficking or hunting. Behind each animal there is a sad story with a happy ending at the rescue center.
These public tours in English and Spanish are scheduled at 9:30 am and 11:30 am daily, with the exception of Sunday when the center is closed. Public tours in other languages are subject to availability (French, German, etc). As previously mentioned, the cost is $20 USD.
Some photos from our public tour
Jaguar Rescue Center Private Tour
Private tours are $60 USD per person, are offered in English and Spanish, and occur Mondays thru Saturdays at 2:00 pm. Tours accommodating persons who speak other languages are subject to availability. The center recommends that you book your private tour at least two weeks ahead of time. This tour is two hours long and is personally tailored to you and your party.
La Ceiba Primary Forest Day Tour
The day tour starts at 7:30 am with breakfast. After breakfast you are led on a guided two hour hike of the property to see the released animals in their habitat. This hike includes a visit to a private lagoon and waterfall. It costs $60 USD per person.
La Ceiba Primary Forest Night Tour
The night tour starts with an organic dinner at 6:30 pm and is followed by a two hour hike. On this tour you will encounter nocturnal creatures that live in the forest, something that is usually not seen by the typical tourist. The night tour is also $60 USD per person.
The Jaguar Rescue Foundation also offers combo packs of the tours listed above. These range from $110 to $240 USD and you can select from the Monkey Pack, the Sloth Pack, the Toucan Pack and the Jaguar Pack. The Jaguar Pack includes a 2 night stay in one of the houses that are on the La Ceiba property, perfect for those who want to be completely (and comfortably) immersed in nature and commune with Costa Rican wildlife.
Accommodations at La Ceiba
The foundation has two beautiful wooden houses in the La Ceiba Primary Forest, the Ilan Ilan house and the La Ceiba house, available for rent. Jaguar Rescue Volunteers can inexpensively rent a room in the La Ceiba house during their stay. If you are planning a vacation to Puerto Viejo, staying at La Ceiba is a great way not only to visit but also to support the foundation.
How You Can Help
There are multiple ways you can help the Jaguar Rescue Foundation continue their mission. All of these options are discussed and described in detail on the Support Us page of their website.
- Visit: The fee that you pay for every visit is a donation to the Jaguar Rescue Foundation, and you get the extra benefit of being in the presence of some pretty awesome creatures, to include the staff and selfless volunteers. You can also help the foundation financially by booking a stay at one of the houses on the La Cieba property.
- Donate: If you are unable to visit and still want to help, donate monetarily to support the amazing efforts of the foundation and give more wild animals a second chance at life.
- Adopt an Animal: You can commit even further by symbolically adopting an animal. While the cost per animal is more, you can “adopt” one for $100 USD per year. Of course, if you are able to, you can contribute more than the minimum $100 USD.
- Send or Bring Supplies: There are supplies and certain veterinary items that are unavailable or very expensive to get in Costa Rica that the foundation always uses. You can bring these items to them in your luggage from wherever you are traveling from or order them to be shipped to their P.O. Box. These items are listed in detail on their website.
- Volunteer: Donate your time and energy by directly caring for and interacting with the rescues. Contact the foundation by filling out the form on their Volunteer page if you are interested.
- Spread the Word: Follow the Jaguar Rescue Foundation on Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for their monthly newsletter in their website. Share their posts and newsletter with people you know, especially if they are animal lovers. I love following their accounts; many of their posts make me smile and make my day.
The Jaguar Rescue Foundation is a top-notch non-profit organization. Their rescue center and the La Ceiba Primary Forest are well worth visiting if you are on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. There is no excuse to miss it if you are staying in Puerto Viejo.
The encounters with wildlife are up close and personal, done in a professional and responsible manner, respecting the animal. The caretakers are dedicated to the preservation of wildlife. An animal that cannot readapt to the wild or who needs special care will call the center home for the rest of its life.
Several of these adorable “Ambassadors” freely wander the facility, like Tami the Anteater, with volunteers assisting them as necessary. Tami suffers from an injury that caused permanent brain damage, which causes him to walk in circles. That doesn’t stop him from knowing where food is or seeking the company of volunteers, staff and guests.
The foundation has designed these tours to be fun as well as informative, to raise awareness of preservation and conservation. A visit here brings out and delights the inquisitive inner kid in all of us.
I am excited to go back and do more of the tours, especially a private tour or a night tour, and maybe stay at La Ceiba! Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to volunteer.
Please visit the amazing Jaguar Rescue Foundation website to see how you can contribute and to find out more. You will quickly discover it is a great and noble cause for the love of wildlife!
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Thank you for your support and reading my blog. Hasta Lleugo y Pura Vida!