Wildlife interns spend at least a week helping our team rehabilitate animals using a “hands off” approach. Too much human contact can have a negative impact on an animal’s ability to survive, and so Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center aims instead to create an enriching habitat allowing animals to eventually thrive in the wild.
Ulises Mejia Martinez participated in Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center’s Wildlife Internship for two weeks. What was his experience?
How did you find out about Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center?
Ulises: I found out about Rescate through Volunteer World. I was looking for a 2-week internship to work closely with animals, and I knew that Costa Rica’s flora and fauna diversity was unmatched. Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center stood out as being the only GFAS-accredited facility in the country, which made it clear to me that they were serious about animal welfare.
What did you do here?
Ulises: The main focus of the Wildlife Internship Program revolves around enriching the lives of the animals, so a couple of hours a day are spent coming up with new ideas and crafting devices that stimulate the senses of the animals in the sanctuary.
Some enrichments focus on olfactory stimulation like adding different scented spices to wood compartments for titi monkeys. Others focused on cognitive devices, such as hiding small pieces of fruit inside leaf-based braids for monkeys or marmosets to untangle.
When I was not doing enrichment activities, I would perform behavioral observation of various animals like coyotes or jaguars. Some other days I was collecting leaves for sloths or feeding the macaws (there are a lot!).
What’s one enrichment device you were proud of?
Ulises: Enrichment challenged me to be creative since I had to consider the physiology, behavior, and dietary restrictions of the animals. I could use only natural materials like bamboo, leaves, rope, etc.
The animals did not always interact with what I had built. When they did, it made all the hard work and effort worth the while. A particular example of a successful enrichment I crafted was leaf-braids with small pieces of fruit inside for primates and macaws. When we threw them into Baby’s habitat (a green monkey), she was initially cautiously curious about it. After a couple of minutes passed, he managed to untangle the leaves and get to the fruit inside.
Were you attached to any animal in particular?
Ulises: Out of all the more than 800 animals in Rescate’s sanctuary, one immediately won my heart. Lorenzo is a puma jaguarundi that came to Rescate sometime in 2019.
Upon entry, the vets performed some blood tests. The results revealed that he suffered from Cerebral Hypoplasia. This is a neurological disease that affects the part of the brain that controls locomotion. Lorenzo is not able to have full control of his movement, resulting in his unique and wobbly way of walking. Although his condition is permanent, he is not in pain and it won’t get worse. The vets at Rescate believe that his disease was caused by the lack of a proper diet when he was a pet.
Due to his condition, Lorenzo will never be released in the wild where he belongs. However, thanks to Rescate’s mission and to all the individuals that work there, he has a chance to live as wild as possible.
I think that his story is a crystal clear example of the consequences of having exotic animals as pets. Is the social status and pride of owning an endangered species worth it? I think Lorenzo would beg to differ.
Are you ready to fall in love with any of the 800 animals living in Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center?
Contact Jeanne Marie Pittman at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and availability!
** Article by volunteer Lisa Martens