While not easy to find (it’s not on most local maps, and many tuk tuk drivers mysteriously don’t know where it is), a visit to Nosara’s Refuge for Wildlife will help to better inform you of the threats to the wildlife in Nosara, as well as what’s being done to combat them. And of course, you’ll also get to see some of their incredibly cute residents up close.
The refuge will send you directions when you make a reservation to come see them through their website. And you should try to make a reservation earlier rather than later, as they can get quite busy and they only take one small group of people once a day.
The educational visit will be around 10 am and it will last for about two hours. Keep in mind while planning that you will probably not want to walk to the rescue centre. To get there you must take a long, steep, dirt road, that is not well marked and would be less than pleasant to walk on in the heat. So, take a taxi or tuk tuk, and once you reach the top, you’ll find the wildlife refuge is surrounded by a lush oasis.
Be aware that this is first and foremost an educational visit. Nosara’s Refuge for Wildlife makes it very clear that they are not a zoo, they are a rescue centre, and they certainly do not condone keeping wild animals as pets. All the animals at the refuge come in because they are injured, orphaned, or displaced, and the intention is always that they will be rehabilitated so they can hopefully be released back into the wild.
In other words, this visit is not about getting a picture with a monkey on your shoulder. In fact, don’t get your hopes up because that won’t happen.
Only volunteers at the refuge are allowed to handle the animals. Your visit is to learn about what the refuge does and why their services are needed. Therefore, your visit will begin with about a 45 minute long presentation.
Visits to Nosara’s Refuge for wildlife are held to inform the public and also to raise funds for the centre. If you attend an educational visit at the refuge, they will ask for a $50 donation (American dollars).
What stuck with me the most from the presentation is that the number one killer of howler monkeys is electrocution, and so the refuge is doing what it can to work with the electricity supplier in Costa Rica to insulate all the lines and transformers. Also, another big problem is people thinking that monkeys can be kept as pets. The refuge receives a lot of monkeys in taxis, believe it or not. They are usually contained in a kennel or even a backpack, but the reason this happens is because the owner could no longer care for the animal and they didn’t know what to do with it. Many times, it’s because the monkey became aggressive, which often happens once they reach adulthood.
There are a lot of orphaned baby howler monkeys at the refuge because often times the mother will be electrocuted on a power line and killed. Usually babies are on their mothers backs or stomachs and so they don’t receive as much shock and they survive. However, there are monkeys of all ages at the refuge.
While the younger monkeys are kept indoors and require more care from volunteers, the older monkeys are kept in larger enclosures outside and have little to no contact with the volunteers other than when they are fed. This is so they can become accustomed to staying away from humans before they are released back into the wild.
We weren’t even allowed to get any closer to the cage I’m standing in front of in the picture below. These are the oldest monkeys at the refuge (at least 18 months) and they aren’t far off from being released. Also, interesting fact, the cage they are in was donated to the refuge by Safari Surf School, where I took my surf lessons in Nosara. They had previously used the cage to store their surf boards.
And while the refuge mostly houses howler monkeys, there are a few other inhabitants as well..
But not all of the creatures are necessarily welcome…
And those that are, sometimes try and escape…
And pretty much anywhere you go in Costa Rica there’s always a chicken wandering around.
If you do choose to visit, Nosara’s Refuge for Wildlife is a nice way to spend a couple of hours learning about Costa Rican wildlife, and it’s nice to know you’ll also be playing a small part in helping the cause. Just make sure you’re ready to learn, and don’t be sad when you don’t get to hold a monkey.