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Observing Monkeys: A Glimpse Into Volunteering In Costa Rica

Photographer capturing nature in the forest
Observing monkeys quietly and from a distance helps us learn about our primate pals. Will this be you one day?

What would YOU do as a Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center volunteer?

What do Wildlife Volunteers do to help animals in Costa Rica? One very important task includes simply observing animal behavior! As a volunteer at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center, you may be asked to observe animals native to Costa Rica, including white-faced monkeys, spider monkeys, and howler monkeys.

Observations include watching monkeys live or reviewing camera footage. What would you be looking for? We observe monkeys to see if they are exhibiting desired behavior, like getting along with other monkeys and enjoying their habitat.

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center may want to observe monkeys who are:

  1. new to the center and are adjusting to their environment
  2. meeting other monkeys in order to form a larger troupe or to mate.
  3. “Adopting” a baby monkey
  4. Being released into the wild
  5. already released to ensure they are thriving

…and much more!

Why do monkeys need to socialize with other monkeys?

Monkeys are social animals who are happiest when they can form troupes with other monkeys. This is one reason why they do not make good pets. As a Wildlife Volunteer, you may observe monkeys to ensure that they are getting along with one another, which is something we do before releasing monkeys into the wild.

For example, if two small groups of spider monkeys are getting used to one another, you may be asked to note which monkeys are playing, and which seem shy. You’ll notice if monkeys are aggressive, or if they seem fixated on repetitive behaviors or hiding.

Monkeys are never released into the wild alone. Even if they cannot be released for medical reasons, we encourage socialization. We may introduce monkeys to one another who are lifelong residents of Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center because they will be happier living in their habitats if they have friends. 

What happens if a monkey does not appear to be thriving?

Sometimes monkeys may seem distressed or have a behavioral issue. This information is useful so that we can take steps to enrich their environment or address any underlying medical problems.

A monkey’s past history is also important in determining care. For example, a monkey born in a natural habitat will be different than one who was kept illegally as a pet. We want to create the most ideal, natural life for each monkey who enters our sanctuary.

Like people, each monkey has their own personality. Observing behavior is an important step in creating a happy life for them in the center and in the wild.

Join us in helping monkeys live happy and free by becoming a volunteer

Learn more about volunteering at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center in La Garita, Costa Rica by visiting our volunteer page or by contacting Jeanne Marie Pittman at

*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