Without a doubt the centre needs very competent, committed staff to maintain a place like the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary and to offer appropriate treatment to all the exotic animals experiencing the hardest time of their lives. Sympathy, compassion and love are at the forefront in this community setting. Moreover, every helping hand of volunteers and donators is appreciated to deal with the daily challenges at Alturas.
Earliest supporter and Director of Operations, Mike Graeber actually comes from a background in construction but began working in all kinds of sanctuaries all over the world from the age of 23. Although he has never been an animal professional, he spent as much time of his vacations from his real job as possible to offer a brighter future to animals in need. After founding successful initiatives like the D.A.W.G. (Domestic Animal Welfare Group) of Costa Rica in 2000 and establishing the Osa Mountain Animal Sanctuary in 2011 he has now started his next project together with a team from the Villas Alturas Resort in Dominical. His greatest concern always is to release the wild animals to the jungle once more. He warns us how important it is to drive more carefully on the highways as the lack of caution has made Costa Rica’s highways the biggest graveyards of the country, resulting in many fatal losses of wildlife. In addition, he appeals to the public to put their dogs on a lead to protect exotic creatures in the jungle which are often attacked and even killed by dogs that are wandering.
Apart from Mike, there are five more permanent members of staff, as well as the volunteers. One of them is Sania who has been working for the Alturas Sanctuary as a lawyer for almost three years. After studying law and working as a lawyer she saw the opportunity to express her great passion for animals by starting to work for Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary. Although the Costa Rican government does not subsidise the center, they are maintaining a close contact to Alturas and it takes a lot of time to receive all the necessary permissions to work with the wild animals, too. However, on several days a week, Sania also takes care of the baby animals and helps develop the educational program for school children. According to her experiences, her biggest challenge at work is to see the cruelty of people dealing with wild animals and having them as pets. This is why Sania hopes to pass the message on of how to cultivate a more responsible attitude towards wildlife for both the kids, but as well their parents, in order to preserve Costa Rica’s biodiversity in the present and future.
The sanctuary’s veterinary Anna Maria who started working at the centre in June 2015, originally comes from Colombia. Her tasks include evaluating new animals and providing medical treatment for all residents, as well as checking untypical behavior like repetitive movements or aggressive reactions, which indicate stress. For her, the most fulfilling part of her work is the release of a completely rehabilitated animal back to nature, where it belongs. That is why Anna Maria urgently recommends not having exotic creatures as pets. In case of finding injured animals that are hurt, the best option is to call the police, MINAE or the rescue center if it is in the Costa Ballena area. Due to a lack of professional training it can be risky to touch the animals, so just keeping an eye on them and immediately calling the experts is a more suitable reaction and may make the difference between whether the animal survives or not.
Finally, since July, Larissa is completing the sanctuary’s staff as a biologist. When she was a child she started dreaming of taking care of animals and in particular working with the baby sloths is one of her favorite tasks!
However, the close relationships between the staff and the animals can also be very challenging when a resident they have been taking care of for a long time is lost. For the future, Larissa wants to prevent further domestication of wild creatures as pets which often harms them in an irrevocable way and prevents them from being released into their natural habitat.
All members of staff have one message that resonates, if you love the animals, protect them. They would also like to thank the Villas Alturas Resort for hosting the centre and for their handwork and dedication – without them, the centre would not be possible.
“If you love a flower, don’t pick it up.
Because if you pick it up it dies and it ceases to be what you love.
So if you love a flower, let it be.
Love is not about possession.
Love is about appreciation.”