Rescate Animal Zooave: Wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its extremly high biological diversity. It is considered one of the 20 most biodiverse countries all around the world. Due to its geographic location between two continents, the two coastal regions and montane areas with their different vegetation zones and microclimates are home of around 500.000 species, which add up to Costa Rica hosting 4% of the worldwide amount of estimated species.

The Rescate Animal Zooave is a wildlife rescue center in Alajuela, near the capital San José, with the aim of protecting the biodiversity and animal welfare of the country. In 2018, the animal protection foundation „Tierschutz-Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche“ decided to support the project of the Rescate Animal Zooave in two different ways: Thanks to the generous donation of the foundation, the clinic is now equipped with an ultrasound machine, which significantly improves the medical treatment of the more than 2000 animals that are treated in the clinic annually. Furthermore, the foundation set up a scholarship for a German veterinary assistant to help and support the team of the clinic as a volunteer for three months, by bearing the costs arising with the stay in the country.

The project of the Rescate Animal Zooave:

The Rescate Animal Zooave’s mission is the long-term preservation and protection of native wildlife and the protection of environmental diversity and wildlife habitats.

Rescate Animal Zooave is divided into different projects:

  • Fully functional Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center: intake, care and medical treatment of at least 2000 injured and abandoned animals on an annual basis.

  • Endangered Species Breeding Center: breeding programs, including Geoffroy spider monkeys, Central American squirrel monkeys, great green macaws and scarlet makaws.

  • Conservation Park: Care Sanctuary for overall 800 non-releasable animals from more than 125 different species.

  • Three reintroduction reserves: Bosque Escondido Wildlife Refuge (Nicoya Peninsula), Valle Central and Golfito (Osa Peninsula): so far thousands of animals have been released into the wild

Furthermore Rescate Animal Zooave promotes several activities:

  • Environmental education programs for local school children

  • Environmental awareness campaigns throughout the country

  • Lobbying for more strict legislation to increase the protection of wildlife and biodiversity

The Rescate Animal Zooave is one of only two official government approved facilities in the country that are accredited by the “Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries” (GFAS). However, they receive no financial support from the government, but are being funded exclusively by admission fees, private donations and occasional donation items.

Over 2000 wild animals are being accomodated by Rescate Animal Zooave’s Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center each year. Most of the mammals, birds and reptiles are brought to Rescate Animal Zooave by local citizens or tourists. Those animals mostly include sloths, monkeys, tamanduas, porcupines, parrots and other birds as well as reptiles. Many of them are orphaned young animals. Injured animals often are in critical condition as a result of powerline electrocution, collisions with vehicles or windows, predation by pet dogs and cats, or hunting.

Many other animals, mainly the endangered species, are brought to Rescate Animal Zooave from MINAE (the local wildlife authority) including jaguars and other wild cats, rare parrots and passerines and some reptiles. These animals have generally been confiscated from poachers, illegal breeders, hotel owners or other citizens, who were using them as tourist attraction or keeping them as pets. Those animals normally suffer malnutrition, dehydration, parasitism or psychological trauma.

All of these animals are treated and rehabilitated in the veterinary clinic. As far as their physical and behavioural condition permits, they then go through different stages of pre-liberation before finaly being released into their natural environment in one of the two release sites of Rescate Animal Zooave.

Rescate Animal Zooave also provides life-time care for 800 non-releasable animals. All of those animals are being kept in large enclosures and aviaries, that are set up as close to nature as possible. By visiting the park, attention is being drawn to the preservation program of Rescate Animal Zooave. Information boards point out the tasks of the center and explain the specific problems that arise with the protection of particular species as well as general conservation topics.

Rescate Animal Zooave is also home to a number of unwanted exotic animals and pets including some ostriches, emus, marmosets and various caged birds.

Rescate Animal Zooave made headlines worldwide with the story of the toucan Grecia after losing half of its beak in a brutal attack by teenagers and receiving a 3D printed prothesis in the animal rescue center’s clinic. The history of Grecia triggered worldwide consternation and local protests against animal cruelty. With this, the toucan Grecia became an international symbol for animal welfare.

Donation of an ultrasound machine by the Tierschutz-Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche

At the beginning of 2018 the Rescate Animal Zooave’s veterinary hospital moved to larger premises and now relies on further donations to be able to increase its medical technological facilities. Thanks to the generous donation of the Tierschutz-Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche the clinic now has a portable ultrasound machine, which significantly improves the qualitiy of medical treatment of the animals the center is taking care of.

The use of medical imaging techniques is an important tool for a more accurate diagnosis. The most widely used techniques in veterinary medicine are, due to their speed and lower costs, radiography and ultrasound. Both of them are essential tools especially in the field of emergency medicine. Ultrasound gives us dynamic images, which contributes to the diagnosis of pathologies such as obstructions, cardiac deseases and obstructions of blood flow. It is also used for the diagnosis of hemorrhages or fluid accumulation in the thoracic and abdominal cavities, evaluation of tumor masses and others.

Since Rescate Animal Zooave has the ultrasound machine it has been used in several different cases: among others, for a porcupine with decreased gastrointestinal transit, a monkey with chronic diarrhea, for a baby sloth as a tool of general initial examination and in the renal evaluation of a geriatric mountain lion. This allowed us to take better and faster treatment decisions to solve the problems.

Ultrasound examination of a porcupine
Ultrasound examination of a porcupine, Isabel Hagnauer (veterinarian ) (left) and Larissa Calis (biologist) (right).
Ultrasound examination of a monkey, from left to right: veterinary assistant Jana Bauer, veterinary nurse Aleida Méndez with many years of experience and veterinarian Isabel Hagnauer.
Ultrasound examination of a baby sloth, veterinary assistant Jana Bauer (left) and veterinarian Isabel Hagnauer (right).

Volunteering in the Rescate Animal Zooave veterinary clinic

Apart from the generous donation of an ultrasound machine the Tierschutz Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche enabled the 21 year old German veterinary assistant Jana Bauer to work in the veterinary clinic as a volunteer for three months by bearing the costs of accomodation and living in the country. With her experience in dealing with European wild birds as well as with exotic pet birds she was able to volunteer mainly in the avian department of the hospital. Here she was jointly responsible for feeding all the birds in the clinic, for the medical treatment of injured and ill birds and for rearing orphaned chicks. Furthermore she assisted in taking care of the other animals. The clinic team was grateful for her dedicated help and could even sometimes benefit from her experience, for example in the field of optimizing the diet of the young birds.

“Working in the clinic and dealing with so many different species of animals and especially birds impressed me very much and I have learnt a lot. I was able to gain important experience and knowledge, both of which will certainly help me in my professional future working with animals. Also I believe that this volunteer stay will have a strong personal influence on me. I am extremely grateful to the Tierschutz Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche that it enabled me to make this unique experience!”

Cordial thanks to the Tierschutz Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche

Rescate Animal Zooave is very pleased with the interest the Tierschutz Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche is showing in its project. Thus, the whole team would like to cordially express its thanks for the generous donation to the veterinary hospital!