New Rescate Team Leaders Talk Wildlife

This year, we have three new Team Leaders at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center! Ethan, Rachael, and Ellie have come from Australia and England to expand their careers, share their expertise, and train interns in our various programs.

Interested in interning? Check out our programs!

About the Team Leaders

Ethan and Rachael are visiting us from Australia, where they focus on caring for carnivores and primates, respectively. Ethan normally works at Monarto Safari Park, and Rachael works for Adelaide Zoo…two organizations under a non-for-profit conservation charity called Zoos SA!

Ethan has worked primarily with African animals, and now focuses on carnivores like lions. Rachael has worked with primates for about three years. The two wanted to come to Costa Rica several years ago, but Covid-19 caused them to push those plans back.

Ellie is a Senior Bird Keeper from England with over six years of experience. She comes to Rescate after working at Birdworld in Surrey. In her words, Costa Rica is the “elite place” for birds.

I managed to catch these hard-working leaders while they were eating at Kivu, the Rescate restaurant named after a lion.

Learn more about Kivu!

Which projects here at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center are you the most excited about?

Ethan and Rachael normally work with animals that are non-native to Australia. This means the animals cannot be released. They’re excited at the prospect of working with animals native to Costa Rica and reintroducing them into the wild.

Rachael mentioned “wanting to directly affect conservation” as a motivator to come to Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center.

Both noted that at Rescate, the animals have the benefit of being around their native Costa Rican foliage.

“All these animals are in good health because they have massive enclosures. Here, all the monkeys are in their natural habitat,” Ethan said. While visitors might not see all the resident animals due to the abundant tropical plant life, this helps the animals feel right at home.

Ethan also mentioned the importance of educating interns. “Obviously, I love doing all the animal stuff. But I’m enjoying the education side as well and passing on that knowledge,” he said. “We can make it educational for people who want to get into the industry.”

Ellie is excited about the breeding programs, and in getting other people to fall in love with birding.

“The birds are so difficult to see sometimes…when you’re not used to where they are. It’s easy to just move on to the next one. I can understand why they’re more overlooked,” Ellie said (after I let her finish her lunch).

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Ethan has experience with giraffes, lions, rhinos, and more!

What about people keeping wild animals as pets or touching them while on vacation?

Tourism & Touching Wild Animals

Everyone agreed that travelers who want to pet or touch wild animals usually are not doing so maliciously. Even so, this industry hurts real wild animals. Recent research by World Animal Protection (WAP) estimates that up to 5.5 billion wild animals are being kept in cruel conditions.

Unfortunately, tourism is a driving factor. This cruelty can include lions being taken from their parents as cubs, then orphaned. Some elephants even develop trauma disorders, and monkeys might be exploited for selfies.

Educating people on the harms of interacting with wild animals can help stop this cruelty.

“Social media has made it really bad,” Ethan said. “The backstory of where these animals came from is quite traumatic, and if people knew that…they’re quite shocked by it.”

“We like to send the message that it’s not normal to take selfies with primates, so that when they do go to other zoos or overseas, and they see it happen and they go ‘I’m not going to do that. It’s not okay for a monkey to have breakfast with me'”, Rachael said. “There’s so many places all over the world that do exploit animals.”

Rachael’s view of animal selfies aligns with Rescate’s. This is why we have statues and stuffed animals around the park to take selfies with and educate the public!

Keeping Parrots & Monkeys As Pets

Many people see parrots as a potential pet and might assume a parrot is domesticated like a cat or dog. However, parrots are wild animals. Not only that, but a pet parrot can get quite lonely.

A 2023 study showed that pet parrots developed relationships with other parrots via Zoom calls, and even had friendship preferences. They would call the same parrots back!

This is just another sign that these animals should be with their own kind.

“With parrots, because they’re so intelligent, if you’re keeping one on its own…they develop psychological issues,” Ellie noted. People who have parrots as pets should not keep them on their own, due to all the socialization and mental stimulation they need.

A lack of this stimulation results in stress behaviors that can include pulling out their own feathers and aggression.

“They do have the capacity to bond with you. I can see why that’s nice for a person,” Ellie said. However, just like a person needs to have relationships with other people, parrots need to be with other parrots.

The same goes for primates.

“One of the worst things you can do to a person….is putting them on their own in solitary. The same with primates,” Rachael said. “Just like if you have a dog, you still crave human attention. You can’t get everything you need from hanging out with your dog.”

“Wait, you can’t?” Ellie joked.

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Ellie says there is always something new to learn about birds!

On Working With Animals

All three Team Leaders agreed that working with animals carries a lot of reward, along with long hours and dedication.

“Keepers put their whole entire hearts into their job. You’re spending more time with your animals…seven days a week…that’s more time than I spend with my family,” Rachael said.

Animals are unpredictable, and you rarely do what you’re planning to do that day!

“It’s a labor of love, but very rewarding,” Ethan added. “The reward of making an animal’s life better.”

Are you interested in helping out at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center? Learn more about how to get involved!

*Written by Volunteer Lisa Martens

Would you like to get involved yourself?

Become an Intern and have a unique wildlife experience.

Veterinary Internship

Veterinary interns work directly with our highly experienced veterinarian and our rehabilitation staff. You will assist with with animal intakes, exams, treatments, surgeries, feeding and record keeping.

Wildlife Internship​

Work hands-on in the Lifetime Care Sanctuary, Endangered Species Breeding Center and the Rescue Center, feeding animals, conducting behavioral research, and creating enriching experiences for our non-releasable animals or even clicker train our Jaguar „Guapo“.

Road to freedom Internship

This internship gives you the unique opportunity to not only see, but to play an active part in what we call: The Road to Freedom. Aid the animals in their release, monitor and research them and their second chance at life in the wild, the final step on their Road to Freedom.

Alajuela, COSTA RICA