What about visiting a place where you could probably see more exotic animals of Costa Rica in an hour than in a whole month? The Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, located just behind the Villas Alturas Resort in Dominical, is a non-profit organization that dedicates its work to rescue, rehabilitate and release wild animals that have been confiscated from illegal pet domestication or trade, suffered from road accidents or are orphaned babies whose parents can no longer take care of them.
Built up just one year ago by Mike Graeber and a team from the Villas Alturas Hotel, the center quickly started to become an important cooperation partner for the Costa Rican government, which struggles to accommodate the large number of confiscated animals being found every year, and yes, despite strict regulations against the illegal domestication of wild creatures in the country. Many of these poor animals have become accustomed to people, so that a release into the jungle has become impossible. However, they need an appropriate place to stay which is why the sanctuary also offers spaces for permanent residents. Nevertheless, the Wildlife Center’s first concern always is to rehabilitate animals with the intention to prepare them for living in the jungle once more. Therefore, animals that had been kept in a cage or as pets usually receive a “jungle training” which means a kind of jungle education in order for them to live independently once they return to their natural habitat.
Currently, the sanctuary is giving a home to about 125 animals and still wants to expand its facilities in order to provide even better conditions for animals in need. For example, the sanctuary just expanded its emergency animal clinic to improve first-aid medical support as further transportation to veterinaries would cause additional stress to the animals. And they have never denied an animal despite challenges with space and adequate enclosures for the animals.
Mike Graeber, Director of Operations at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, emphasizes that this positive development of the center with the final aim to become “the most comprehensive wildlife rehabilitation center in Costa Rica”, could never have been made without the dedicated team of staff, donators and volunteers who work so hard every day to help their exotic residents to recover. In general, the sanctuary is financed only by donations and admissions, which is the reason why a constant support is needed to maintain the place.
For everybody who wants to help, Alturas offers a voluntary program for volunteers from all over the world to become a part of their team and experience the wild animals as close as never before. During this time (minimum commitment of 3 weeks is recommended) they can choose between an accommodation in the official volunteer house and a stay in the Villas Alturas Resort close by. However, it is also a great possibility to take one of their tours to learn more about the animals, each of their personal histories and to gain a greater knowledge of the nature surrounding us. Specifically concerning education, the recently initiated educational program for local schools has been created to promote a more responsible conscience towards wildlife for the future generation to ensure a respectful coexistence of human-beings and exotic animals in Costa Rica.
In the end it requires a committed cooperation from all of us to save this planet’s beautiful abundance of species and the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect place to start making one’s personal contribution.
For more information on the AWS’s program, please see the following videos: