I gotta say, Jaguar Rescue Center was my favourite experience during my 6 weeks in Costa Rica. The compassion and love that Encar & Sandro have for these animals, reptiles & insects are grounded in science. They reach out to new idea, theories and other people. This is a powerful brew and a mighty weapon in the defence of their charges. They are like Super Heroes, but without the outfits. (Encar’s ensemble of choice is hospital scrubs and Sandro’s is Hawaiian shirts. Tropical chic.) The place is clean, so freaking clean – that my apartment would be so clean! And so is everyone’s hands! Those flower sinks get used a lot.
Most of the animals come to them as very young babies since they have the best chance to being released into the wild. If they have been pets and have grown up in a house with people it is generally too late. At Jaguar they are all about the moment when one of their animals takes that step to freedom and autonomy. That moment of pride and joy is, of course, infused with deep sadness since many of these animals started their stay sleeping in their bed until they were strong enough to stay in the nursery or the Monkey Mansion. Encar & Sandro’s commitment is thorough, however, I don’t think any of the reptiles or spiders slept with them… at least on purpose.
It is not surprising that they inspire armies of volunteers to high levels of commitment as well. They all work really hard for the animals to try and make up, I think, for what life has thrown their way. It is the fierce protection that the innocent often inspire.
The property is so lovely, like a park, especially around the pond. It is lush with plants and flowers and makes a perfect breeding ground for the Red-Eyed Leaf Frog. Jimmy, the gardener, is a joy to work with and knows so much about plants and nothing about English. Thank goodness he is patience personified. I will never forget clearing ditchs in the pouring rain (it had been bucketing down for hours) with water up to my knees with him. It had to be done because the leaves had created a dam and starting to flood the property. I don’t think I have ever been so wet and had so much fun.
My last day was likely the most special. I spent the morning with the baby sloths and the afternoon in the forest with the baby monkeys. After, when people were preparing the evening meal for the animals, Pacino was making a nuisance of himself in the kitchen. Pacino was the youngest and newest member of the group. His Mom had been hit by a car and died. He was trapped under her body for 2 days before someone realized he was there. As a result he has separation issue and has bonded to Encar and Poo to the point where he clings for dear life to one or the other and screams for them when they are apart. On impulse I reached out to him over the counter and he came to me, just like that. Away from his beloved Poo and to me. I swear it was like winning the Nobel Peace Prize (or at least how I imagine it would feel) when he leapt into my arms. I knew to keep him I had to get him out of visual range of Poo or Encar so I took him for a walk around the pond. On the way Xai (the deer) joined in the fun. On the slide show you can see her and Pacino tussling while Pacino was on my shoulders. I showed him the frogs and the tad poles and the flowers and we walked by the hawks. It was such a special gift. I didn’t keep him long because I knew his “Moms” would start to worry and we met Encar on the path coming to look for us and of course he leapt off my shoulders to her loving arms in a heart beat. I have here for a good 10 minutes trying to find the words to express how special that little field trip made me feel and I got nothin’ for you. It’s in my internal photo album forever, Yah me!
What can I say, Jaguar Rescue Center does good work, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And it is working. As the monkeys get older they are joining groups of wild monkeys that live in the forest around Jaguar. Sloths are leaving, though like most young adult children, they come home for the occasional “home cooked meal”. Soon the beautiful owl will have grieved enough over losing her mate that she too will fly away. The hawk’s wing will heal and maybe even Orlando Bloom will find a mate and start a family close by. This is not a zoo, not even close. The reason they don’t put labels on the snake and spider containers is because they insist on people taking the tour so that they are informed, not only about the center but about the animals in Costa Rica as well and the challenges they face. Part of the solution is making sure that the visitors to Costa Rica are educated so that they don’t inadvertently cause more damage. The visitors do get to go into the Monkey Mansion and spend time with the youngsters. No body is ever allowed to force or grab a monkey by his arms, including staff and volunteers. Some people have criticized the center for allowing this and it is a tough one but Encar’s rationale is that once you have held a monkey in your arms, looked into his eyes, you will never again be able to be ambivalent to them again. The staff and volunteers are so careful to protect the kids and there are always at least 4 people in with them when visitors are there. Encar and Sandro are part of the famous legacy of Puerto Viejo, of people coming for a visit and forgetting to leave. Thank the Goddess for that.
So go check out their web site, Jaguar Rescue Center, ( but after you watch my video :}), maybe you can go volunteer or perhaps you can adopt one of the delightful critters or donate some money to help them continue their wonderful cause. If you are going to Costa Rica, perhaps you could bring them some products they never have enough of and then you would get to meet all the wonderful characters that inhabit this oasis of love.
A tiny sloth baby came to us, days old. No one thought he would make it but Encar & Sandro wove their magic and when he got a bit stronger they made use of the volunteers, who took turns holding him wrapped in a blanket next to our skin like a papoose so that he was never without a heart beat in his ears. Sandro walked by and saw him and grinned and said, “Love did this, it is a miracle what it can do.”