Missing Our Visitors, and Volunteers!

Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine

We are still under the effects of ‘lockdown’ so we remain closed to the public and unable to receive any new volunteers.

This month has been relatively quiet in terms of rescues and releases however we have been working hard to give the highest level of care for all of our resident animals. Every day our staff and dedicated long-term volunteers have been creating new enrichment for our animals and implementing it into their enclosures. Enrichment is incredibly important in captive animals’ welfare as it encourages natural behaviors, stimulates their minds, and thus reduces undesirable behaviors such as pacing and excessive grooming.

Luckily, we have been able to provide virtual tours to different groups over the last few weeks so we have still been able to share the work that we are doing, and continue to educate and inspire our supporters, as well as let everyone get their fix of all of our wonderful animals! We will continue to do these tours over the coming weeks, with even a few “open” tours available to anyone who would like to join, also! Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram for any available tours coming up!

For #GivingTuesdayNow, the 5th of May, GoFundMe decided to match $1,000 USD, for the first $1,000 USD raised. Thanks to all of those who donated, those of you who shared our campaign worldwide, and those who have never stopped supporting us, THANK YOU! We were able to reach the minimum $1000 USD mark to be matched, and then you kept on donating to reach our goal of $2000 USD thereby reaching a grand total of $3,012 USD!! This campaign was specifically for supplies we needed in the clinic such as syringes, gauze, catheters, and medications for all of our animals, and we are so thrilled we were able to reach our goal. This is so incredibly important to us because we are still rescuing animals during the lockdown as we cannot bring ourselves to close our doors to animals in need. We continue to be blown away by everyone’s generosity during such times, and we cannot thank you all enough!


After last month’s edition where we told you about three baby coatis (Nasua narica) that were rescued, just a week later we received one more (photographed below)!! This means we currently have four baby coatis to raise and release as soon as we can! This young pup is almost the same size as our other three and was rescued from a life as an illegal pet. In Costa Rica, it is illegal to keep any wild animals as pets – if you can find it in the jungle it should not be kept in your home. Luckily, this baby coati was rescued early on so the only care it needs is the correct diet and appropriate social interactions!

baby coatiAnother one to the pack!

As well as this, we also rescued another two toucans which brings our total up to four juvenile toucans here at the sanctuary! These babies were both found separately but both were found on the ground, alone. It is suspected one was attacked by another toucan as he suffered some minor injuries but the other had no apparent injuries. Thankfully, they are both okay, with one receiving care at another sanctuary before being transferred to us for the next stage of his rehabilitation (pictured below).

toucan rescueOur latest toucan rescue

You may remember in a previous issue we explained how tropical screech owls (Megascops choliba) are the most common owl that we receive here in Costa Rica and that remains to be true as we rescued another three this month (pictured below)!! All of which were brought to us after being found on the ground, such was the same as our most recent juvenile screech owls that we were able to release.

We also received a ferruginous pygmy owl (Glaucidium brasilianum) for the same reason; it was found on the ground with no apparent injuries. We are feeding him, watching him grow his strength and allowing him to stretch his wings in preparation for a release back into the wild.

screech owlsTwo of the three screech owls currently in our care

If you find an owl on the ground (or any animal for that matter) and it is not in immediate danger, please be sure to step back to a safe distance and observe it before interfering.

Three more babies we received this May were some baby squirrels! All brought to us on separate occasions; although one was a relatively common variegated squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides) two were of a new species that we have not yet received at Alturas. The Alfaro’s pygmy squirrel (Microsciurus alfari) is much smaller than any other species of Costa Rican squirrel and has a visibly less bushy tail than the others, as well. One of the pygmy squirrels was confiscated after it was found being cared for in someone’s home, and the other two both were found on the ground after we assume, falling out of their nests. All three are healthy and are great candidates for release back into the wild.

Another common baby that we receive at Alturas is the common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis). Common opossums can give birth to up to 20 babies in their pouch but usually no more than nine survive. Nevertheless, this is still a large number of juveniles and so when we get a call about one opossum, there are usually more with it! Unfortunately, this baby was found by itself near its dead mother with what appeared to be a bite wound. Although still young, these marsupials become independent at quite an early age so we don’t think it will be too long before he will be ready for release.

Three baby parrots (unidentified species) were left vulnerable when the tree that held their nest fell down. One was found dead after the fall, and another died when it arrived to Alturas due to injuries associated with the fall, but luckily one survived and we have been caring for him every day since! Baby parrots are notoriously loud, especially when they are hungry, so we move him out of the nursery during the day for some sunshine and to give the rest of our nursery residents some quiet time!

Mexican hairy dwarf porcupineFeeding time for our youngest patient, the Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine

A more uncommon baby that we received this month was a baby porcupine (Coendou mexicanus) (pictured above and in our cover photo). Mexican hairy dwarf porcupines are the only species of porcupine found in Costa Rica. They are highly arboreal and move through the trees with the use of their prehensile tail, eating mostly fruits and nuts. They give birth to usually just one young at any one time, but very rarely twins. This particular baby was found walking around someone’s house one evening. They cared for her for a few days before calling us and asking us to take her to our sanctuary.

If you ever find an animal in need please call your local wildlife sanctuary immediately, wild animals require a specialized diet and care and it can be life-threatening if they do not receive it.


We got a call at 5:30 am about a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) on the beach that needed our help. On arrival, it was obvious that it was unable to fly and had several feathers out of place. With further investigation we discovered that it had a weighted fishing line wrapped around one of its wings, restricting movement and inhibiting flight. We brought him straight to our clinic where we were able to remove the wire and review his injuries. Thankfully, he had no broken skin and only some slight irritation from where the line had been rubbing. We are lucky that we were able to intervene when we did as it is common for lines, wires, or pieces of string to get tighter and tighter the more the entrapped animal continues to struggle. This can lead to far more serious injuries. After only three days the pelican was ready to be released again and we were able to see him fly off into the ocean (pictured below).

release of the pelicanA still from a video we took of the release of the pelican

The juvenile roadside hawk that we rescued last month after falling from his nest was successfully released last week! The inflammation in his legs cleared up and was showing great signs of development so when he reached his target weight we knew that he was ready to go!

The four tropical screech owls (Megascops choliba) that were found on the ground in March and were moved to our pre-release enclosure last month have all been released (pictured below)! They were showing great hunting skills and ticking all of the boxes that meant they could be released back into the wild. They were all released in the respective areas of where they were rescued; a great success!

screech owlOne of the four screech owls after release

Although we have not had many releases this month, our rehab center is still full with all of the babies we have rescued over the past few months. We are currently caring for three juvenile squirrels, three juvenile tamanduas, four juvenile toucans, a juvenile Amazon parrot, as well as two more Amazon parrots that were confiscated, three baby woolly opossums, one baby common opossum, one baby porcupine, two baby screech owls, one sub-adult pygmy owl, and four juvenile coatis! These babies take have to spend longer with us before they are ready to be released depending on the age that they would naturally be independent of their parent(s) in the wild.


Three of the four juvenile toucans have been upgraded to one of our larger pre-release enclosures (pictured below) together where they are able to be more active and begin to learn social behaviors as they would if they were in a nest together or interacting in the wild. They are all growing very quickly and eating well so we are very excited to see them on their road to release. Toucans can often be found in pairs or small groups so we are very happy to be able to have them all together so their environment and upbringing remain as natural as possible. The fourth toucan is still in our rehab center where he can continue to be monitored by our vet staff.

toucanOne of the three toucans which are living together in one of our pre-release enclosures

toucan 2Another one from the toucan flock in our pre-release

The juvenile red-lored Amazon parrot (Amazon autumnalis) was moved to a pre-release enclosure as we believe he had been kept as a pet and so we are trying to limit his contact with humans so he can hopefully still be released.

We have been able to introduce all four of our juvenile coatis together, too, and they all get along well, interacting and learning exactly as young coati should (pictured below). As it is very natural for coatis to grow up with lots of others in their band, especially with lots of juveniles at the same time, it couldn’t have worked out better to receive all four within the same time period. We just cannot wait to see them grow and hope to be able to move them into a larger pre-release enclosure soon for the next step of their process before getting them back to the jungle!

young CoatiOne of the four young Coatis. All four of the coatis have so much energy that it is impossible to take a photo of all of them together

Unfortunately, one of the baby woolly opossums (Caluromys derbianus) died a few days after arrival, but the other three are growing and eating well. We had to separate one as the two larger opossums were dominating the food and we wanted to be sure he was getting enough to eat. These two have been moved to our quarantine area where they have a little more space to climb and the smaller one is still under a watchful eye in our nursery, making sure he is still on the right track.

woolly opossumsOne of the two larger woolly opossums

May 2020