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Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

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Seattle, Washington
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Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

The owner is rude and unhelpful and appears to be most interested in getting the donation and requesting the signature of two petitions to support her organization.

The interiors of the cages are lacking of anything natural but dead branches without leaves. Some conditions are abhorrent, especially the turtles sitting in shallow buckets with ½ inch of filthy water and what appears to be flakes of old vegetables. Even more sad, we were told they would not be released until 12-15 more were received.

The tours are completely unorganized and unprofessional. Solid answers for the condition of the animals (some babies, some adults) and reason they are captive and/or if they are releasable are either not given or are unknown. There was a recent release made by a past volunteer of some of the animals and I can understand why. It’s best for them to have a small chance in the wild than to be kept under those circumstances.

I have been to several rehabilitation centers around Costa Rica and this one is simply not satisfactory in its present state.

Grecia, Costa Rica
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1. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

That is very sad to hear Travelicious, I spend time with animal rescue work here and I hate to hear about what you found. The operation will be reported, hopefully they will come to terms with what animal rescue and rehabilitation really means or be shut down.

Inca

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2. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

Inca - It was really depressing there. I did meet and talk with some people who said there are already people trying to shut it down, probably a reason for the petitions. I imagine there are many others out there lacking decent infrastructure too but if they really have a heart to continue the mission they need to turn things around quickly.

Montezuma, Costa...
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3. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

I've worked supporting Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary since it's beginning six years ago, and occasionally we hear comments like this from people who mean well but generally don't have a good understanding of what it takes to run a wild animal rescue center in Costa Rica. We have had thousands of people visit Rainsong over the years, and over a thousand volunteers from dozens of nations have stayed at Rainsong. The vast majority of them have positive things to say, and are supportive of the project.

Rainsong is supported nearly 100% by donations from visitors, and is in a remote area that doesn't have a lot of tourism (Cabuya). Unlike many rescue centers in Costa Rica, it isn't attached to a hotel or run by wealthy people. Mary (the owner) lives in a one-room shack and gives 100% of her time to the project, and she is supported by many of the country's top biologists, who understand the tremendous difficulty of what Rainsong is doing in this country. The government in Costa Rica offers no support and the bureaucracy that Mary deals with is one of the worst in the world, sapping much of her time and energy.

All of Rainsong's housing for the animals exceed the minimum requirements in Costa Rica. This is temporary housing, because Rainsong releases all the animals back into the wild as soon as they're healthy enough to survive, and as long as they're legally allowed to do so.

The turtles you referred to are baby land turtles, successfully bred by Rainsong for release to help replenish the species. As far as we know, it's the only place in the world that has done this successfully with this type of turtle.

Yes, the tours are generally disorganized because the place is run by short-term volunteers when Mary isn't available. Rainsong is not a zoo or a tourist attraction that might be able to afford trained employees, and most of the visitors understand that.

The "release made by a volunteer" that you refer to happened recently when a volunteer came to the mistaken belief that baby howler monkeys need to be fed fruit, and so the monkey was kidnapped and taken, nearly dead from dehydration, to another rescue center in Nosara. The owner of the other center called Rainsong and offered to transfer the monkey back.

Generally, most baby wild mammals are able to drink only raw goat's milk, once they get over the trauma of being separated from their mother, who was usually electrocuted by unshielded wires, killed by dogs, or run over by a car. Pasteurized cow milk will kill many species (and humans drink it?) I should also mention that Rainsong has successfully cared for many electrocuted monkeys, or their babies, and released them back into the wild where they successfully joined local troops.

I urge people who love animals to visit Rainsong and give a generous donation to support the animals. Without this support, these animals will have nowhere to go and will die or be put to sleep by local domestic-animal vets.

Grecia, Costa Rica
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4. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

Thank you for your thoughtful response Geoff. I do understand the difficulties involved with animals rescue here and that the government does little or nothing to help. It is a frustrating situation to be a part of a country so involved with conservation on the surface while at the same time so blind to some of the destruction of habitats that leads to the necessity of having rehabilitation centers.

I am going to take a trip out to Rainsong sometime over the next month to see for myself what they are doing, good or bad.

Inca

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5. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

I don't think I have ever met anyone who cares more about animals than Mary of Rainsong. She is absolutely relentless in helping injured, rescued, and endangered animals here in Costa Rica. Those of us who live in this area are so relieved and thankful to have a safe place to take animals who have been hurt, abandoned, or rescued. In fact, to the people we encourage to visit, we always give two disclaimers: 1) of the very rustic nature of the sanctuary (it is not a white glossy vet hospital like you may find in richer countries), this is a donation-only run Central American refuge and 2) the eccentric nature of Mary, who we imagine prefers the company of animals to people, which you'd have to in order to donate your life to them as she has! She is not rude or unhelpful, but she can be curt. Her great love is animals, not tourists. And if she's interested in getting her small $5 donation, it is so that she can provide more food/shelter for the animals. She's certainly not getting rich off it!

The workers she has are all volunteers, mostly travelers. They come, volunteer for a while, then move on to their next destination. So, if you happen to have a new volunteer, no, they may not know all the details of how/when/why. But they are always happy to go find out for you.

This a haven for sick, injured, and abandoned animals. Some may consider that a "depressing" place simply by definition. Personally, I find zoos much more depressing, as at least any animals at Rainsong that can be released back into the wild, are. No chance of that in zoos. It is correct, some Rainsong residents never will be released...like the most popular resident there, Tarzan, the one-armed white faced monkey. Monkeys absolutely cannot survive on their own, and a troop will rarely take in another male, just females. Tarzan is often out of his cage, swinging around and hamming it up for guests, and never tries to escape. He knows how good he has it! In fact, the only complaint I have heard by locals about Rainsong as of late, is how few resident animals there now are to see! How so many have been released that there are way fewer animals to see than this time last year.

Mary always has several petitions going, at the moment one is to force ICE, the electric company to cover the power lines, which has become such a huge danger to animals (especially monkeys) in our ever-growing area. At other times it is petitions to help in her tremendous efforts to save the endangered leatherback turtle. She even commissioned the armed local police this year to go with her try to protect the beach from poachers that steal baby turtle eggs.

I know everyone we have sent there has enjoyed themselves and comes back with excited tales of holding a porcupine, or feeding a baby howler monkey with a bottle, or having an anteater wrapped around their neck like a shawl. We hope that people will continue to support Rainsong and applaud Mary & Geoff's volunteer efforts, and wish more people were as proactive as them.

Edited: 1:26 pm, July 15, 2010
San Jose, Costa Rica
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6. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

Thank you everybody to write about this place...as an avid animal lover I will support any body that is trying to help any animal in need...

Incredible that some big hotels they caged animals to make a profit...I wonder if we some day could cage the hotel managers or owners...then maybe they will realize that is not fun...ASHAMED!

roadadvisor

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7. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

I am merely posting my personal experience and the opinion my visit left me with. I'm not one of those people who have unreasonable expectations while traveling in Costa Rica, I don't like to complain, nor do I think that treating people rudely is acceptable.

Upon entering the center the owner did not greet me with a welcome or hello, but barked out the question "did I know there was a donation required". When I asked if she could tell me a little about the process of rehabilitation and release she declined to offer any information whatsoever other than telling me to go look at the list of releases posted at the front. When I told her I had seen that as well as read the entire website, but just wanted to talk about the process, she dismissed me and told me to run and catch up with another tour which would explain everything. The tour was in it's last 5 minutes and was being lead in Spanish by an American volunteer that had been there for 3 days. This volunteer was super nice and very smart, but had no training or information to relay about the animals other than what type of animal they were, which was also posted on a card on some of the cages.

There is a Capuchin with a missing arm that will never be released and while the cage might exceed what's required, it could be much better with little effort. Again, the turtle project might be successful, but why must they sit in filthy disgusting water while they wait to be released? There were volunteers working while we were there, so hopefully things will get better instead of worse.

The actual tour was a big part of my frustration. In all of the rescue centers I've visited in CR the tours were run by either the owner or a very well trained volunteer and they were all very happy and proud to talk about the organization. In these cases we were given lots of information about the state of current animals, what the main causes of injuries to the animals are caused from, plans for releases, successful and not so successful past releases, etc. Possibly, having tours with set times requesting larger donations (rather than drop-ins), but having someone that knows the organization and it's history well, would better benefit the organization.

BTMJ, I hope you are right and this org is just understaffed, but that is just not how she presented herself when we were there. Every time I would ask a question to the volunteer that she didn't know, the volunteer would yell over to Mary and ask her. Instead of Mary seeming happy to answer questions she seemed bothered by it, like when I asked how an animal got there or if it was releasable or not.

We took the last bus there from Montezuma and the bus driver informed us he decided he would not do the final return trip at 4:30pm. When I explained our dilemma that there was no bus and asked if we could use the phone to call a taxi she said her phone was not working, which was weird because she was talking on the phone when we got there and it rang during the tour. Anyway, that is just a side not having anything to do with the center itself, it just added to the negative feeling we came away with.

Costa Rica
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8. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

travelicious, I can absolutely see being put-off by Mary (hence the disclaimer I give people before they go), but discouraging people to support Rainsong by posting on public forums only means that they have even less money to help the animals in need (or provide better structures, etc), which is why I felt the need to reply to your post. For the good of the animals. By making claims like "most interested in getting the donation" implies that her intentions are not true, when I know that they are (whether she is good at showing that or not). I think it would be great for the organization if she could get a chipper full-time tour guide to run the tours for her, but I just don't see where that money would come from.

As you mentioned, the Spanish volunteer was only there for 3 days, and that is very common there. They do not make enough money to pay people, so they rely on travelers who want to come and trade room & board for volunteer work. Sometimes this makes for a lot of disorganization, I agree.

I know when we visited with my daughter's preschool class last year, we did set up a scheduled tour time, raised extra money before we went, and it definitely the most organized tour I've experienced at Rainsong....because they expected us. But, as you saw, Cabuya is not a large tourist destination, and Rainsong is on the bottom (if it is listed at all) of the list of most local hotel's recommended tours (surely since there is no commission paid to the hotel...sad but true).

The Capuchin you referred to spends much of his time outside of that cage, from what I understand (I have seen him out free on one of my visits). He was rescued after male members of his own tribe ripped his arm off, I'm just relieved he is alive and has a place to call home. He would likely die on his own.

I know your intentions are good, great thing about this post is seeing how many people out there truly care about animals!

Seattle, Washington
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9. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

BTMJ - Your points are well spoken and well received. I work in non-profit myself and understand the ups and downs of raising funds. The catch 22 is that if tours aren't run well and/or visitors aren't felt welcome, then there will be less incentive to donate more than the minimum donation. If they are run well, people are likely to feel more compassionate, offer more than the minimum donation, which in turn could provide a better state for the wildlife and even compensation for staff. Due to less tourism in the area, maybe this focus is even more important than for others. I will leave this post alone now as I think everyone here has contributed some things worth considering.

Grecia, Costa Rica
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10. Re: Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary - Montezuma - NO BUENO

I think it is great that some have given a voice to Rainsong in trying to explain the situation, and it sounds that Rainsong may mean well enough, but are severely underfunded and need some organization.

I am still going to take trip out and see the operation for myself I hope within the next month or so. If everything is indeed the way it may appear than maybe there are some things that can be done to help. There are always ways to improve and it sounds like they may need all the help they can get. I will post what I find.

Inca