Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dream for Monkeys

One of the things we love most about this house is the monkeys. We have a tribe of Howler monkeys whose territory includes the trees on all sides of our house and we spend lots of quality time watching them from the balcony.

After we had settled in to life in Nosara, we went looking for ways to spend our time, including volunteer opportunities. I perused the list of the various Nosara nonprofits, of which there are quite a few. Not finding anything coastal management related, I went for the next best thing. Monkeys.

The increase in tourism and accompanying development have had a severe negative impact on Costa Rican monkey populations. Between 1995 and 2007, Howler monkey decline in the country was estimated at 65%. In Nosara and surrounding areas, Howler monkeys are particularly vulnerable to electrocution from uninsulated power lines that are draped through the thick canopy of trees to houses, resorts, and businesses, mimicking the vines that the monkeys use to travel between feeding grounds (I'll spare you the graphic electrocution photos).

Refugio Animales de Nosara and the SIBU Sanctuary, together known as Nosara Wildlife Rescue, work tirelessly to save the Howler monkeys in Nosara and surrounding areas. Refugio focuses on rescuing injured adult Howler monkeys and orphaned infants. Medical care is provided, humane life term care is given for those animals whose injuries are too severe to be rehabilitated (99% of adults die of their injuries within a week), and around the clock care and feeding is provided for the orphaned infants. When the infants are ready, they are transferred to the step-down release facility at SIBU Sanctuary.

The entirety of Nosara Wildlife Rescue essentially consists of three dedicated individuals who work on a volunteer basis full time (or more) rescuing and caring for Howler monkeys and any other animal that is injured or abandoned and brought to them. By pure determination and passion for their cause, they have managed to subsist for over ten years in Nosara based on sporadic private donations, caring for hundreds of monkeys and other critters every year.

They are committed. And exhausted. And always in need of more help and more money.

My volunteer efforts with Nosara Wildlife Rescue has been mostly focused on working directly with Steve and Vicky of SIBU Sanctuary.

Vicky with the newest transfers to SIBU

Steve with a rescued orphan porcupine baby

Specifically, we have been working to design and implement an idea for a consistent source of funding that capitalizes on the strong environmental ethic of both business owners and visitors to Nosara, and the rise of "travel philanthropy" throughout the world.

“Dream for Monkeys” is a program where local hotels and vacation rentals make a donation to Nosara Wildlife Rescue equal to a percentage of the cost of lodging. Businesses that participate in the “Dream for Monkeys” program directly help mitigate the damage to the monkey populations caused by tourism and increased development. Guests who choose accommodations that help save the Howler monkeys enjoy their vacations with the knowledge that they are acting responsibly.

The program is a way for those in the accommodation sector to help alleviate negative impacts to local wildlife associated with tourism and increasing development, while also increasing profitability by providing socially and environmentally conscious guests the choice to help save the wildlife that is such an important part of their Costa Rican experience.

Sounds great, doesn't it? It is a great idea in theory (in all its variations), but honestly is proving difficult to actually implement. Nosara is a small town full of wonderful people committed to great causes - and all of them need monetary support. Everyone has fundraisers in January and February (during the busy season) and frankly folks get tired of being asked over and over to donate. In addition, though tourism here is big business, it is of course subject to the ups and downs of the global economy. Hotel owners are uncomfortable committing to a year round donation program. Finally, the idea seems overly complicated to them - full of extra paperwork and more time with their calculators.

Still, we continue to pursue the idea because the idea is good and a dependable funding source is critical. Nosara Wildlife Rescue is making a difference in the long-term recovery of the Howler monkey population, but the day-to-day fight for survival continues and increased support is essential.

Partially completed "Open Canopy" habitat at SIBU

One of the new transfers to SIBU

Bella and baby SIBU (the first baby born at SIBU)
Bella and her baby were recently released and are slowly acclimating to life in the wild

Ideas, comments, suggestions, etc. regarding the "Dream for Monkeys" program are welcome. In the meantime, I am focusing my efforts in the short term on the upcoming Nosara Wildlife Rescue fundraiser and auction, to be held February 25th. Even !Que Rico! is pitching in for the cause, with a donation of ice cream delivery once a week for a month. If you live in Nosara, I hope to see you there!


  1. CHILLS! Bella was the baby I found and brought to the program and I also volunteered for a year after. Now she has a baby! Wow!

  2. Oh, and this photo of me is with her when she was a baby, the night we had her before bringing her to the refuge... I hope their fundraising this year is super successful, it's such a WORTHY cause.

  3. Wow, Heidi! Yes, Bella, small as she still is, has a baby. I saw them yesterday, still hanging out at SIBU - not quite ready to leave, though they are free to go. Miracle Charlie is apparently the proud papa.

  4. Wow Caitlin, working with monkeys has been my dream since I was a little girl! Is it really possible to do??? I guess not in PA. :( Once again I live vicariously through you... Power to you, keep searching for the funding, there HAS to be a way.

  5. Okay, did you figure that out? That was from Becca, not Dave... oops

  6. I remember when miracle Charlie came in... I was no longer volunteering. SIBU is great! I hope they transition well. I think they should call people to attend. I got a call for the library fundraiser, Rick and i have attended or supported almost every single year since living here. And that call would have made a difference potentially, with me, if I had forgotten it or something. A personal call to attend... And then if they can't, get some $$$.