Day 8 (Monday): Today was my best day so far. In the morning, I cleaned the birds (not my favourite task, but no-one else volunteers to do it. They all just seem to hate the birds.), then “jungle-bathed” for a while afterwards. In the afternoon, I cleaned the Kinkajou cage and David just jumped on me again and kept trying to snuggle up to my arm whilst he slept. It was just the cutest thing, it makes me heart glow. Afterwards I did a lock-check at 3pm which consists of walking around all the enclosures and checking their locked, have the padlocks on and all the water bowls are full. I was then meant to “babysit” the sloths but one of the volunteers persuaded me not to, or actually realistically pressured me not to. There had been comments flying around the centre over the last few days questioning whether the baby sloths should still be handled. Whilst Sarita was away they put a hold on it, but when she returned it started up again. Some people who claimed to have spoken to the Centre’s vets said it was bad for them as they were coming too dependent, it wasn’t normal and if they carried on that way they wouldn’t be released into the wild as they’d never survive. They claimed to have spoken to Sarita and she apparently shut down these people, apparently she was too focused on the fact that the Centre claims to let you play with Sloths so that would be what they provide. But coming from Sarita’s mouth directly the sloths need the attention of humans as they are all babies without their mums. In the wild, they’d have the warmth and comfort of their Mothers but in the centre they don’t have that, therefore humans act as the Mother temporarily. It’s hard to know what to believe. On one hand your hearing claims from the vets but not hearing it directly from them, or your relying on Sarita who has no education in animals just previous experience working with them and immense passion. I don’t know who’s correct or who’s not. I can see on both sides valid arguments, but I decided that I didn’t want to be implicated in any of it so withdraw myself from “babysitting” them. In the afternoon I fed the Sloths with Dana, including two called Stevie Wonder and Rachel who have to be hand fed as they’re blind. It was the cutest thing hand feeding a sloth. I wish I could do this task every day. I then had the opportunity to fed Itchy again at 7pm. She’s literally my favourite animal here, she didn’t climb on me but I just feel like I’ve bonded. She’s so adorable.
Day 9 (Tuesday): Decided to have some time off today, so after cleaning Turbo’s enclosure in the morning, Jackie and I went on a trip to San José for the rest of the day. It was an ok place, I wouldn’t rave about it but it was nice seeing another part of Costa Rica and getting out for the day. The shops were strange (mostly skateboard and surfing shops??) and it was very busy. They had a local market which was very interesting to walk around, lots of fresh fruit and meats. We mostly walked around a bit, but then had to take shelter in a restaurant for the rest of the afternoon as it started to heavily rain. I had to actually speak some Spanish today! I’m actually very pleased with myself!
Day 10 (Wednesday): This morning I finally got to bottle feed Oscar the goat! He wags his tail when he’s feeding he’s just that happy! So much love for that little guy! I then tried to do food preparation afterwards which was ok but just an entire mess. Nobody knew what was happening or what to do and there was no-one there to show us or guide us. It’s just awful. They should have someone allocated to each task so there’s always someone over-seeing the work being done, or at least have some proper followable instructions written out for all volunteers to see (I believe they have that for cleaning the animal cages, but nobody actually informed me of this until more then a week into my stay). The best part of food prep, was getting to feed Rachel and Stevie Wonder again. This time, Rachel was mine and she kept biting into the beans and the kept squirting everywhere. I came out of the cage with bean juice all over my clothes! After food prep me and Dana “babysat” Oscar for a while. in the afternoon I cleaned out some sloth cages again, yet another film crew were in filming all the Sloths so I had to keep dodging them whilst still getting the work done. So awkward! I guess somewhere out there I’ll be on the TV on internet busily working away sweeping cages! Afterwards I was back on “babysitting” duty, and this time Oscar was a bit frisky. He seemed to really enjoy my company this afternoon, and persistently kept trying to hump me. Which as hilarious as it sounds, was quite terrifying as his head little horns are actually quite forceful! I think some smell or something must’ve been on my hoodie, as when I chucked it on the floor away from me he seemed to have settled down a bit. God knows what that was all about! To calm down, I took a little stroll up to our local store (i.e. the front room of a ladies house). Unfortunately Dana and Jackie failed to mention to me that it was up two massive hills, so required a hike of about 10 minutes. And ice-cream helped cure me for the way down though.
Day 11 (Thursday): I volunteered to clean out the Kinkajous, Itchy the Olingo and Feluco’s cage today. Feluco bless him, as soon as I walked into his cage he started to cry and crawl on to me. I didn’t let mim stay though, as heard he has a habit of eating people’s hair which can’t be good for him! Again, once I was done I just lazied around some more. I was so tired today, I couldn’t even muster the energy to go find something more to do. For afternoon chores I volunteered to do food prep which was a gain complete and utter shambles. No-one had a clue, but eventually we got it done. When I was done for the day, I went and found Dana helping the Diego the vet clean the Capuchin cages (we aren’t allowed to do these cages, nor the Spider Monkeys as they are naturally more aggressive) so I just watched them for a while and helped them out myself. Never before have I seen a monkey crack a hard boiled egg on a person’s back before, until now. And it was probably the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I didn’t even know monkeys liked hard boiled eggs but boy do they! As the Capuchins can be aggressive, we just had to distract them whilst Diego was in there, then ensure that he could get in out safely. So for me, this meant waving the egg in their face and eventually giving it to them once Diego was in the clear. It was actually quite enjoyable. Once we had finished, Dana and I decided to pop into the local town Tuccurrés to go to this second hand clothes store and the supermarket. I got on my first ever Costa Rican bus! The travel out here is so cheap, why can’t London be the same? Then at 7pm I fed Itchy once more with Jackie. Bless her, she actually came out of her tunnel today and looked terrified the entire time. Her ears kept flicking even where there was the slightest noise. She must be so distressed her, so is so alert. And it’s awful as Itchy is a nocturnal animal and there’s a massive flood light outside her enclosure, no wonder she barely comes out of the tunnel. It’s stuff like that, that makes me sad this place doesn’t have more expertise assistance.
Day 12 (Friday): My last day, and what a perfect last day it has been. In the morning, me and few other girls visited Territorio De Zaguates otherwise known as the Land of the Strays. If you’ve never seen it before, or heard of it, you need to read on and research this place. It is doggie heaven. Oh my. Basically this place is a massive piece of land where stray dogs are taken when they are found, and the charity feeds them, cares for them, neuters them, gives them the medical treatment they need and let them live off the land. Giving them a home. There are over 700 dogs living here, all roaming free, all being helped. And every, single, one of them is up for adoption. It is literally the best thing I have ever witness, heard of, experienced. It was the best and I just love, love the concept of it. We got there at 9am just in time to receive a tour of the premise which consists of them walking you around the entire land (it’s a hike, and lasts about 90 minutes). All the dogs walk with you. You also get time to rest and play with them. The owners accompany you, giving you information about the company and specific dogs. It’s just brilliant. The dogs are so friendly, and if I lived in Costa Rica I would definitely want to adopt a couple (all that I could really). The views of this place of Costa Rica were also stunning. This place was literally a dream, I don’t think I’ll ever erase it from my memory. It makes me giddy just talking about it! We got back just in time for afternoon chores, so I cleaned the bird cages for one last time. Then for dinner, Dana, Jackie, another volunteer called Kieran and I decided to get the bus up to the pizza place again and have a final dinner together. Finally a successful pizza trip! Today was so brilliant, I’m almost sad to leave. I’ll definitely miss all the animals. And I’ll miss Dana and Jackie. I wouldn’t have been able to survive this place without them. That’s one thing that makes or breaks a place. You could be in the best circumstances with no friends and struggle, or you could be in the worst with people you you click with and have a great time. It’s the luck of the draw I guess. And sometimes in life you have to take those chances. But it’s time to go home now.
So that’s how my time at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Centre played out. The beginning was definitely a struggle for me. I made it sound like it was ok, but looking back it I hated almost every minute of those early days. Going back to what I said about people making a place, I still stand by that. After the first week, some hostile and unfriendly people left and new friendly people came but I also think in my last week I got more comfortable, and I started to understand what the centre was really about. The verdict? Do I think this place is the best place to volunteer? No. Do I think this place is doing all that I can? Yes. I truly believe they are passionate, and I believe with a little bit of help whether that’s from people with more of an education or expertise in animals would really help. I also think they would do greatly if they had more people in charge who actually worked for the company not just volunteers. The structure is bad, but the passion and care is there. Since leaving the centre, I’ve heard good reviews and bad reviews from people. I’ve heard two of the animals have passed (in under a month) – R.I.P Turbo the Emu and Leo the Capuchin. I don’t know what the exact details are, but it’s very unfortunate news and I hope and pray the new centre will bring new opportunities to the centre and get them on a better level, so the animals have bigger enclosures, a better chance of survival and better life. Would I recommend volunteering here? Honestly? Yes. I feel they need help from volunteers. The animals need the help. They’re there whether the centre is a good one or bad one. At the end of the day the animals there would probably all be dead without the centre’s help. They’re there for the animals when other people seem to be turning their backs and I think that’s what’s most important to support. Do they need whims to try and lure people in like holding a Sloth or playing with Monkeys? No. For me, I’d go to look after the animals. I’d go to work. I’d go to help. Therefore I feel like I did my part. Part of me still questions whether volunteering like this is good, but when I look at the alternative I feel like there is no question. I’d rather these animals being looked after then not cared for at all as I for one would not like to live in world without them.