Sunday 5 March 2023 – Nearly half way through our
holiday in travels around Costa Rica, and we have now finished the first of our two bags of Twinings Earl Grey tea.
For breakfast, Eric was front of house and presided over a really very good breakfast, probably the best we’ve had during our time in Costa Rica. It set us up for an absorbing day, visiting two places, each dedicated to helping the local wildlife, each in its quite different way.
The first visit was to the Jaguar Rescue Centre. This is a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured and orphaned animals. With a focus on monkeys, sloths, other mammals, birds and reptiles, the JRC provides veterinary services, round-the-clock care and comfort to animals that would otherwise be unable to survive in the rainforest or the waters of the Caribbean. It has quite a remit, since it is obliged to accept and take care of any animal brought to it that is sick or injured. The Rescue Centre provides the veterinary services, 24-hour care, and comfort to animals; the Sanctuary is the permanent home, where the best possible conditions and care are offered to those animals that cannot be released back to nature due to their physical conditions. The Rescue Centre typically handles over 800 animals a year and has cared for over 5,000. If I understood correctly, they are currently providing care for some 492 creatures in all.
A remarkable place, with a wonderful, caring attitude; and, because of its stock-in-trade, some sad stories of injured, ill or abused animals that can never be released back into the wild. We took plenty of photos there, and some of them are not what you might call great wildlife photos because of the conditions that the animals have to live in – not free to return to the wild, for their own good or the greater good of other wildlife. But here they are anyway, to show you some of the range of animals currently in care.
For example, they have two wonderful scarlet macaws, which were kept (illegally) as pets and so could not survive if they were released. Wonderful creatures, but impossible to get good photos.
There are some owls, a spectacled owl
and a black-and-white owl,
who has lost an eye probably due to the superstitious belief that owls are harmful creatures, so people often throw stones at them.
There’s a very cute two-toed sloth
which actually suffers from dwarfism and so couldn’t survive naturally.
There’s an American crocodile which has lost an eye,
some slider turtles,
and a caiman
which is in the same enclosure as the turtles, but apparently has jaws too small to present a threat to them (probably all ex-pets). There was also an agouti there – nothing to do with the centre, it had just found its way in naturally and was quite happily cohabiting with the other animals.
They have spider monkeys each with their own, often sad, story.
They have Amazonian parrakeets
and they gave us our first chance to see a keel-billed toucan at close quarters.
(A beautiful creature, but, like all toucans, a nasty piece of work – they have been described as the most vicious predator in Costa Rica.)
My vote for the most beautiful animal there is
the margay. I think it had been kept (illegally) as a pet but had escaped and slaughtered thirty of a neighbour’s chickens before eating only one of them.
On the subject of cats, it is apparently difficult to tell the difference between margay, jaguar and ocelot when they are kittens. The very first creature brought to the centre was a young kitten which actually turned out to be an ocelot, but they initially thought it was a jaguar, hence they called the centre the Jaguar Rescue Centre, even though there are not and never have been any jaguars there.
Our other activity today was to visit the Ara Project at Manzanillo. This is a conservation programme dedicated to saving the critically-endangered great green macaw. Having found the place, which was up quite an alarming drive from the road, we had a chance to read the information boards about the work the foundation is doing, followed by an introductory chat from Marcelo,
who explained a few more details about the life cycle of the birds and the problems they face from predators (e.g. toucans, which predate the chicks, the bastards) and loss of habitat (particularly the forest almond, whose wood is extremely hard and therefore sought after for, e.g. housebuilding). When the centre was set up, there were no green macaws in the area, but now there are over 100 who come and go as they please. The foundation have set up some nesting boxes (fashioned around plastic dustbins, actually) which provide a safe haven for the birds and make it a little easier to check up on the success of breeding.
There was some excitement even before we were taken to the viewing area as some macaws came by.
and then we went up to an elevated spot from where it was easy to see some stations set up with “snacks” for the birds to tempt them to come by.
I didn’t expect to have any problems getting some fine photos of macaws as they perched in the surrounding trees, and indeed it wasn’t difficult.
What I really wanted to achieve were some shots of the birds in flight. This was less easy. I could get them at a distance
but getting close-up action shots of them was very difficult. I took around 450 images, over half of which I would immediately discard for being out of focus, poorly framed or even not including any macaws at all. Here is a gallery of some of the less-unacceptable results (Jane maintains that the last of these is actually a photo of an angel…)
Whilst all this was going on, someone pointed out that there was actually a sizeable two-toed sloth in the trees above us, and this provided a bit of a diversion.
Jane got a real Chewbacca shot of it,
and I took some video as it (relatively speaking) sprinted about the branches.
Anyhoo, back to the macaws. There was a nesting box visible from the viewing area
which seemed to be of passing interest to a couple of the birds, but whether it was actually in use or not I don’t know.
I guess this is the best shot of the session from my point of view – the nearest to what I’d visualised as possible and which also shows why they are called green macaws.
That was it for Parrots Of The Caribbean, and it was time to go. Also, it had started to rain (actually, we’d been lucky with the weather today – it rained for much of it, but not while we were out).
It was time for a late lunch/early dinner, and Jane had spotted a restaurant near the Ara Project called El Refugio (Facebook page here). It was there I noticed another characteristic of the Caribbean area of Costa Rica:
cats. This was the only area of the country that we’d so far seen where there were cats; everywhere else it was dog-only. That’s not to say that the restaurant was cat-only
as two examples of the local tamelife came to inspect our meals. Their luck was out, but ours was in – the food there was very good indeed.
The journey back to our villa was therefore in twilight, which was a bit daunting,
as the local cyclists, of which there were very many, it being a Sunday, don’t seem to think it necessary to have lights on their bikes. Still, we made it without knocking any of them over, at least as far as we could tell in the half-light, and that was it for the day.
The morrow sees us move on to our next port of call, which is shaping up to showcase a very different aspect of Costa Rican life, so do please come back to these pages to see where we ended up next.