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Our History as Zoo Ave

We’re no longer Rescate Zoo Ave

“Our history is taking a new turn. We changed our name to reflect more of the work that we do. This organization has always been a rescue center, and with the old name many people believed we were a zoo. With this change it will be easier to generate more understanding of our missions and subsequently more help for the animals we rescue.”

Dennis Janik

Executive Director and Founder,
Rescate Wildlife in 2020

Rescate Zoo Ave in Costa Rica is now Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center

Before 1990 it was a Zoo

Dennis Janik bought an old zoo in Costa Rica. It was called “Zoo Ave” and was falling apart. In the 1960s, this place showed off wild animals to make money. The zoo was not a good home for animals, that’s what our history shows.


Later, in the 1980s, things changed. Dennis Janik had a big dream. He wanted to save the animals at Zoo Ave. His goal was to make it a safe place for them. He planned to turn the zoo into a rescue center. This would be a sanctuary for animals, not a business.

Bought with the intention to shut it down and save the animals

In 1990, Dennis established a non-profit named ‘Fundación Restauración de la Naturaleza’. Additionally, this foundation took over Zoo Ave. Consequently, it transformed the zoo into a sanctuary and rescue center. This place was then renamed ‘Rescate Animal Zoo Ave’. With new leadership, the focus shifted. Now, the goal was not just to better the lives of animals there. Furthermore, they aimed to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife. Also, they provide care for animals that can’t return to the wild.

Importantly, our history reflects a commitment to endangered species. The foundation breeds these animals. This is so their young can live in the wild. Moreover, the old, insufficient facilities were removed. Subsequently, the animals were moved to a 36-acre land. This new location is near the Itiquís River. It’s vital as it’s part of a biological corridor.

By the mid-1990s, changes were evident. The site in La Garita de Alajuela had grown. Now, it included a proficient Wildlife Rescue Center. Additionally, there was a Lifetime Care Sanctuary. This is for animals that can’t be released. There was also a Conservation Breeding Center. Its purpose? To breed and release endangered species.

However, there was a challenge. Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center was rescuing species from all over Costa Rica. Thus, there was a need for different release sites. These sites had to match the animals’ natural habitats. As a result, in the late 1990s, two new sites were created. One was the Bosque Escondido Wildlife Refuge. It spans 1,800 acres of dry tropical forest in Nicoya Peninsula. The other was Golfito. This site covers 90 acres of tropical rainforest on the Osa Peninsula. Dedicated staff live at these sites. They carry out an effective soft-release process. This ensures rescued wildlife has the best chance of survival.

In 2020, we chose to update our name. Now, we're known as Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center. This change reflects our history. It shows our dedication to saving wildlife.

Interestingly, as international guests mixed up Zoo Ave with a typical zoo, it dawned on us that our name might send the wrong message. Hence, we faced a crucial insight. Our history doesn’t align with the usual goal of a zoo, which is to make money by showing animals to visitors. In fact, that’s far from our true aim.

Moreover, we stand out from other zoos and rescue centers. For more insights, kindly check out the Our Uniqueness section. Also, within Costa Rica, people recognize Zooave for its commitment to healing and releasing most animals we care for. Thus, to honor this legacy, we’ve retained ‘ZooAve’ in our refreshed logo. This move honors our local advocates’ familiarity with our ethos. Discover the story behind our name’s evolution here.

Ways to help

Get involved

Get Involved and Become a Lifesaver by becoming a sponsor, a donor, an intern or volunteering at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center! If you visit us, you can also bring us essential goods we can not buy in Costa Rica from our Amazon Wishlist.

Current Support needed

Help us feed our wildlife like Piki the Tapir by giving a monthly or single donation.

Current Support needed

By sponsoring our sanctuary, you become a vital lifeline for our precious wildlife. Join our community!

Current Support needed

Help us reproduce and release Scarlet Macaws and Great Green Macaws! Make a donation today!

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Our Sponsors

You Make Dreams Come True: Heartfelt Thanks to Our Incredible Sponsors!

We extend our deepest gratitude to the amazing sponsors who stand by us in our mission to protect and preserve wildlife. Your generosity empowers us to make a difference, one animal at a time. Thank you for being the heroes in our story, ensuring a future where nature thrives. Together, we're creating a legacy of compassion and conservation. Your support is the heartbeat of our sanctuary, and for that, we are truly thankful.

Alajuela, COSTA RICA