The Jaguar Rescue Center

Besides our regular day-to-day work, all the interns at Tropical Adventures love to travel and visit nice places in the weekends. A week ago, Tiffany Dunker and I, Ilona Rietveld, went on a trip to Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo. In Puerto Viejo we decided to visit this wildlife rescue center called: Jaguar Rescue Center. Why we chose to go the rescue center was because we both love wildlife, it is educative and it was not that expensive. The entrance fee is only 15 dollars per person and you will get a 1.5 hours guided tour with a lot of information and time afterwards to walk through the rescue center on your own.

About the Jaguar Rescue Center

We thought the rescue center was a unique experience to interact with Costa Rica’s wild animals and help a worthwhile cause.

The center is located in Playa Chiquita and they rehabilitate mistreated, injured and/or confiscated animals. The good thing about this rescue center is that the animals are reintroduced to their natural habitat in protected areas after they have been healed. Often with other rescue centers the wild animals are not being returned into the wild even if they have been fully healed. The Jaguar Rescue Center does have two animals which are for sure not going back into the wild because they have mental problems. Later in this blog I will tell you more about these two animals. During the visit at the rescue center you will have direct contact with monkeys, wild cats, sloths, racoons, anteaters, marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, etc. Also there is the possibility to observe most of the venomous snakes of Costa Rica which are housed in terrariums imitating their natural habitat. 
By visiting the Jaguar Center, the entrance fee and any donation you might decide to give, will go directly to caring for the rainforest guests.

The owners of the rescue center decided to call the center “Jaguar Rescue Center” for a couple of reasons. First of all the Jaguar is the most hunted endangered animal in the Americas. It is a symbol of nature that suffers from a great threat of extinction. Also the rescue center started with a baby jaguar. In 2007 a baby jaguar was given to Encar and Sandro, the owners of the center. At that time there was no rescue center yet but the locals in Puerto Viejo just knew they had a lot of experience with animals and worked with animals. The mother of the baby jaguar had been murdered because local farmers suspected she had killed two goats. The baby jaguar was dehydrated and very sick. Encar and Sandro did everything they could to save it but in the end the endangered baby jaguar died. Encar and Sandro decided to name their animal rescue center in honor of her and the Jaguar Rescue Center was born. Also the jaguar represents the spirit of the king of the jungle and her memory lives on in each animal they save. Since 2007 over four hundred animals have been returned to the jungle and each day Encar, Sandro and all the people at the Jaguar Rescue Center work to return injured and orphaned animals to the wild. The spirit of that original baby jaguar lives on in every animal they rescue and their mission of "Help Us Help Them" continues in her honor.

The thing I love most about the Jaguar Rescue Center is that it is not a zoo, but rather a rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction of wild species center with the end goal of releasing the animals back into the wild. Alongside, the Jaguar Rescue Center develops an educational program for the community that is fundamental for everyone’s future. The owners of the rescue center, along with other partners, have also purchased 50 hectares of primary forest (untouched) in Costa Rica as a form of conservation. They see it as one of the only ways to preserve Costa Rica’s beautiful and fragile ecosystem which is constantly under threat of development. The land is also used to release their animals into the wild when they are ready.

Our experience at the Jaguar Rescue Center

We went to the rescue center in the morning at 9.30 am. When we arrived we got divided into groups and got a tour guide. We went by all the animals they had in the rescue center and the guide told us all about the different stories of the animals and she thought us a lot about nature in general. We were very happy with our guide since she was really excited about her profession and in the end we got an extended tour because she talked so much about every animal. All the people that work in the rescue center are volunteers. All the volunteers get a training at the rescue center and most of them already know a lot about animals, they really know what they are talking about.

The first story we heard during our tour was the story of a female owl. This owl is one of the animals that is never going back into the wild because she has a mental problem. The story started with another male owl. This male owl had lost both of his wings and was in the rescue center for rehabilitation. While the male owl was there, everyday another owl would show up and sit in front of the habitat. Something interesting to know is that owls only fall in love ones and they are very faithful. The people at the rescue center thought that was going on. After a couple of weeks they decided to put the female owl in the habitat with the male owl to see what was going to happen. They thought that since the female owl came voluntary everyday anyhow, she would like that. At the same time they thought that the male owl’s condition would improve after being together with the female owl. This is exactly what happened. After several weeks, the staff in the rescue center found 3 eggs in the owls habitat. Putting the owls together seemed to work for both of the owls. 

Unfortunately then an accident happened. The male owl escaped by walking out of his cage and into the cage of one of the wild cats.. Of course the staff of the rescue center found the owl almost fully eaten by the wild cat. This accident had a great affect on the female owl that was left. Since owls only fall in love ones, they often become depressed after their partner dies. They always stay faithful. This is what happened to the female owl. She became depressed and stopped eating. Luckily the staff of the rescue center was able to make the owl fully healthy again so at this moment she is eating again. However the owl now has a mental problem and the people at the rescue center know for sure that if they let her go back into the wild, she would die of depression. Because the owl is still very young the rescue center is working together with some scientists to see whether there is still a possibility to put her back into the wild. We thought this was a very sad story to hear and we were also surprised that owls only fall in love ones. The owl was also the most beautiful owl I have ever seen.

Another animal in the rescue center with a mental problem is a wild cat. The wild cat came to the rescue center with a big tumor on top of its head. The tumor is now luckily gone however as a result of the tumor the wild cat now has a mental problem. The cat sometimes has some very aggressive episodes.

These episodes also happen when people talk loud around the wild cat, that is why people are requested to be silent when visiting the wild cat. That is not all. The wild cat also suffers from epilepsy. Because of the physical and mental problems of the wild cat, he will never be returned back into the wild. The people at the Jaguar Rescue Center are trying to give this wild cat still a good life, that is why they bring the cat to the jungle everyday for more than 3 hours to enjoy himself in the wild just for a little while every day. I love the fact that the rescue center still does everything they can to make the wild cat’s life as enjoyable as possible by bringing him to the jungle every day.

The last sad story our guide told us was the story of a baby spider monkey. This spider monkey had arrived the day before missing one eye. The story is that a local indigenous group had been hunting on some monkeys by throwing stones at them. They had killed the mother and they were keeping this baby spider monkey on a leash, feeding it banana’s (baby monkeys do not eat banana’s). When Tiffany and I saw this little baby monkey we were heartbroken. The baby was so scared of people now and was really traumatized. He could not go to sleep because he was too scared. Fortunately the baby spider monkey is now in the Jaguar Rescue Center and I am positive this monkey will be fine and will be released back into his natural habitat, into the wild, after a good period of time in the rescue center.

Tiffany and I really had an amazing time in the rescue center. We saw a lot of animals really closeby and we even got the opportunity to play with the baby monkeys for 5 minutes. Any longer would be too busy for the monkeys and it was enough time to just enjoy their presence for a little while. The Jaguar Rescue Center is the perfect example of how it should be. The animals receive help, in the meantime people can learn about these animals by doing the educative tours, and when the animals are fully healed they will be returned into the wild when they are ready. This rescue center made me realize I would like to volunteer there so it had a great impact on me and Tiffany was really impressed by their good work as well.

I would recommend anyone that is visiting Costa Rica to visit the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo. If you are planning on going, I hope you have a wonderful time! Guided visits are available from Monday to Saturday at 9.30 am and at 11.30 am. The center is closed on Sundays. You can not visit the center freely, so you would need to visit the center at the scheduled times for tours. We’d love it if you book your tour through us and make it an adventure, while at the same time supporting our community programs!

Jaguar Rescue Centre, Chocolate Lady, and Waterfall Tour

Our Jaguar Rescue Centre, Chocolate Lady, and Waterfall Tour combines three of our favorite local activities. It includes:

  1. Entrance and tour of the Jaguar Animal Rescue Centre located near Playa Cocles. This centre serves as a refuge and rehabilitation center for many local animals including members of the cat family, monkeys , snakes and more.
  2. Visit to an indigenous family who explain us the way of indigenous chocolate being made — demonstration of the process, from the growing of the Cacao plant to the making of chocolate
  3. Hike to a beautiful waterfall
  4. Transportation: pickup and drop-off at your Puerto Viejo hotel

Chocolate Lady


Next we will visit an indigenous family where they make chocolate from the Cacao trees growing beside their house. You will learn and see demonstrated the process by which the cacao fruit is transformed into delicious and unique chocolate. You will have an opportunity to purchase some chocolate or other indigenous made handicrafts here.  Note that part of the family speaks very limited English so if you don't speak Spanish your explanation of the process may take the form of a pantomine!



Finally, you and your driver/guide will take a short hike (about 20 minutes through the jungle where you can see local plants and butterflies) to the Volio waterfall, a 12m high waterfall in the Talamanca mountains, where you can swim if you like. Should this waterfall be too dry, we will take you to an other waterfall in the area where you can enjoy swimming in the pristine nature pools.

Note: Your feet might get wet while exploring the waterfall, so make sure to wear appropriate shoes or bring an extra pair for changing after the hike

This tour departs at 9am, Monday through Saturday and runs $55 USD per person. For more information or to book this tour, please contact us.

Written by: Ilona Rietveld, Hojancha Community Program Intern


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