Costa Rica is world-renowned for its conservation and environmental protection efforts. But tucked away outside of Puerto Viejo lies an animal rescue and rehabilitation center that is inspiring wildlife preservation, but not receiving nearly the amount of credit it deserves: the Jaguar Rescue Center.
The Jaguar Rescue Center is the remarkable vision of Encar and Sandro, a biologist and herpetologist (respectively) with over a decade of experience working with animals. After witnessing the mistreatment and killing of wildlife in Costa Rica, the couple decided it was time to make a difference. They began working with reptiles, rescuing and rehabilitating them out of their home. It didn’t take long for the news about the great work they were doing to spread throughout the community. As more people began to bring hurt and abandoned animals, the grassroots project continued to grow; in 2008 the Jaguar Rescue Center was born.
The name, Jaguar Rescue Center, is a bit misleading at first. The center rescues and rehabilitates all types of animals, whether they are of the feline variety or not. To be honest, there were actually no jaguars at the rescue center during my visit. However, the name does have a relevant and powerful story behind it: The jaguar is the one of the most hunted animal in the Americas—and on the verge of extinction. After two farmers killed a mother jaguar, her sick and dehydrated baby was brought to Encar and Sandro. The couple did all they could, but unfortunately the baby jaguar passed on. Today the spirit of the baby lives on in the center, in the lives of every animal the volunteers save, and in the name—Jaguar Rescue Center.
While you might not see many jaguars, there are plenty of other adorable animals to observe and interact with, including monkeys, parrots, deer, sloths, anteaters, marsupials, frogs, snakes, owls, wildcats and Tooki Tooki—the resident toucan that prefers hopping to flying and has a bit of a tendency to follow guests from point to point.
One of the rescue center’s best attributes is its freeness. Many of the animals are left in the open, without confines, at liberty to decide when they would like to leave. This isn’t a zoo, but truly a rehabilitation center with the sole purpose of reintegrating animals into the wild. Not only do the animals bond with the shelter while residing there, but they also remember the center and have been known to return years later if injured.
Since its humble beginnings, the Jaguar Rescue Center has rehabilitated and returned over 400 animals to the jungle—an amazing testament to the heartfelt work of all the volunteers at the center. Though the entire community benefits from the work of the Jaguar Rescue Center, it receives no government funding. Visit their website to learn about what the center needs, how to make a donation, and volunteer opportunities (ranging from two weeks to two months).
Due to the interactive nature of the tours, a guide is required to take you through. Tour times begin at either 9:30am or 11:30am. Cost of the tour is $15, and all of the money goes towards sustaining the center. The Jaguar Rescue Center is conveniently located just outside the popular tourist destination of Puerto Viejo.
Have you visited any inspiring animal rescue centers?