New Year, New Newsletter!

margay released costa rica

What a busy start to the year! Just in the last few weeks, we have seen an influx of animals saved from the illegal pet trade including a paca, several species of parrots and a brood of black-bellied whistling ducks! Read on to learn about their stories.

Finally, we were able to celebrate another big success this month at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary when we were able to release the margay (Leopardus wiedii) we had been caring for. This jungle cat was brought to us a year and a half ago after he was being kept in someone’s back garden in a tiny cage, surrounded by chickens. He was between 6-8 weeks old and was infected with coccidian. He was also very underweight so we treated him and fed him and moved him straight into one of our pre-release enclosures where he could begin learning to be a wild cat. He showed great signs of development; learning to climb and jump, and showing no signs of imprinting on humans! Similarly to the ocelot, we released last month, it was important that we used cameras in his enclosure to ensure he was exhibiting all of the behaviors we would hope to see from a wild felid. After months of care and observations, our team of staff decided it was ready to be released back into the jungle. We scouted out a safe and protected area and we hiked through the jungle to be able to release him into an ideal location, in his natural habitat. It is always such a wonderful feeling to see any animal being released back into the wild but to see a wild cat stalk through its natural habitat is like no other.

We cannot thank all of our supporters enough for helping us make this happen - we truly couldn’t do it without you all - our visitors, our volunteers, our generous donors, and our dedicated followers - you all mean so much to us and the important work that we do here.

volunteers hiking into jungleHiking out to the release site. This one needed all hands on deck!

going into jungle to release margayFrom volunteer, to interns to staff members, the whole team was present for this release!

What have we been up to?

We are starting a new initiative where, every month, we will head out to a different beach for a ‘beach clean-up’ with our volunteers and members of the community. Last year we participated in a beach clean-up in Ojochal where we were able to collect 206.5kg of trash from the beach! This is such an important part of the work that we do as we cannot possibly feel confident in releasing animals back into their natural environment if it is not a healthy habitat.

If you are ever in the area and want to help, keep an eye on our Facebook page to know where we are going to be each month. This month we will be at Playa Hermosa on the 31st collecting rubbish for the best part of the morning. Hope to see you there!

beach cleanup costa ricaDuring one of our beach cleanups last August 2019

kids volunteer boot camp costa ricaThis month we have also been collaborating with Reserva Playa Tortuga by hosting their summer camp for kids from the ages of 7-15. During these days we have been working hard to educate these children on our mission and the animals that we have here through fun activities and crafts. It is important to us to give the kids in the area the opportunity to learn about the wonderful environment that we call home and the beautiful animals that we share it with.


First of all, I would like to introduce you all to the newest member of our nursery, a baby agouti (Dasyprocta punctata)! Her mother was hit by a car and killed, and unfortunately, her sibling had also died when they arrived with us, but this little girl is thriving, healthy and gaining weight at a steady pace. She is on a diet of goat milk and a small number of veggies which our dedicated team of staff and volunteers are feeding her throughout the night. She has quite the personality and is constantly finding new ways to sneak past our volunteers to have a play around the nursery before being herded back into her enclosure.

young agoutiThe young agouti

A squirrel monkey that was brought to us after being found holding on to a dog was with us for a few weeks before we transferred him to another sanctuary. There, he could be integrated into a social group and interact with his own species which is vital for their development. We were not sure if he was habituated to humans or if he just had fun playing with the dog but, either way, he would be much better off with his own species, interacting in a more natural way.

We received 3 black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) which were all confiscated as illegal pets. After they complete their quarantine period with us, we will assess their behaviors and decide if we believe they can be released back into the wild. They were all underweight upon arrival, but are now eating well. Black-bellied whistling ducks can lay up to 18 eggs at any one time and the hatchlings are almost independent at the time of hatching. Here in Costa Rica, you can see them throughout mangroves and near rivers. Fun fact: this species of duck spends more time walking on land and perching in trees than any other species of duck!

black bellied whistling duckTwo of the three black-bellied whistling ducks

A sad case we saw this month was of a collection of birds that were being kept in horrific conditions. Three Red-lored Amazon parrots (Amazona autumnalis), one mealy Amazon parrot (Amazona farinosa), one yellow-crowned Amazon parrot (Amazona ochrocephala), and two orange-chinned parakeets (Brotogeris jugularis) were kept in cramped enclosures without enough room to even stand up straight. They all had various issues such as tumors, respiratory infections and one was severely overweight – weighing almost double that of a healthy parrot! Unfortunately, we had to euthanize several of them due to their chronic issues, and the remainders were transferred to another sanctuary for further treatment. This was a horrible example of what improper care of animals can do to them, and also makes us so thankful that not all of our cases are this extreme, and that we are able to save many animals from life as illegal pets.

The illegal wildlife trade is one of the most profitable illegal industries in the world, with parrots being one of the most common species that are poached, trafficked and sold. Hundreds of thousands of parrots are taken from the wild every year and although it is illegal in Costa Rica to keep these beautiful animals as pets, it is still legal in many other parts of the world.

Finally, a juvenile crane hawk (Geranospiza caerulescens) was found on the ground in the mangroves and brought to us as he is too small to fend for himself. He will stay with us as he learns to hunt and fly over the coming weeks and then we will return him to the mangroves where he was found to live out his adult life.

Crane HawkThe Crane Hawk


We received a paca that was confiscated from being kept illegally, and after observing its behaviors we deduced that it was still a good candidate for release. After several days in our clinic, we were able to return it back to the jungle.

costa rica pacaThe paca taking its first few steps into freedom!

A green iguana (Iguana iguana) that was attacked by a dog was brought to our sanctuary and had suffered several wounds due to the attack. However, with some care from our wonderful vet team and interns, he made a full recovery and we got him back into the jungle as soon as possible.

Another dog attack victim was brought to us after its mother was killed. Fortunately, this common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) baby was unharmed from the incident and we were able to raise him to a healthy weight and get him back into the jungle within a couple of weeks.

A beautiful bird was brought to our rescue center a few weeks ago – an American purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus). Closely related to the wood-rail, this bird suffered injuries to its legs after being hit by a car, rendering him unable to walk. Luckily, with a place to rest, and some pain medications, he began to heal and started using his legs more and more. After a few weeks and some careful observation, it was apparent that he was moving well and was ready to get back to his natural habitat.


Both of our juvenile tamanduas have been moved out of our nursery and into larger quarantine enclosures where they have more space to climb and explore. They are getting fed our special anteater mix and are supplemented with termites on a regular basis to encourage natural foraging behaviors. We can’t wait to see them in our pre-release enclosures in a few months!

northern tamanduasAngus, one of the two juvenile northern tamanduas

We have also been happy to see some of our birds complete their quarantine period so they have finally been able to be introduced to our sanctuary flock. These four Red-lored Amazon parrots (Amazona autumnalis) can now be seen in our large aviary with our macaws and 3 other Amazon parrots on one of our four tours a day! All of these birds were kept as illegal pets and brought to Alturas after being confiscated. It was a slow process to introduce these birds to our resident animals, and we are still carrying out ongoing observations to ensure that everything is going smoothly; that they are all eating well and staying healthy. Introducing animals can be a very delicate process that takes a lot of time, planning and observations, but thankfully we have a great team of dedicated staff and eager volunteers who are willing to put in the efforts to make sure it all runs as well as it possibly can.

red lored parrotOne of the four Red-lored parrots recently moved into our sanctuary

January 2020 News