September Sun


This month has been full of sunshine, and we are not complaining. We are slowly trying to open up and this has allowed us to welcome three interns who will be here with us for the next few months. We are eager to help them learn and grow in this field, but also have a little help with our daily tasks. Stay tuned in the coming months to learn about them and their time with us.

We must continue thanking you all and our supporters everywhere because we have been able to continue rescuing animals, but also, we have reached our goal of $5000.00 for the bird pre-release enclosure. We will be updating everyone on the build, as it progresses. The ability to continue to grow and improve our work for the animals is only made possible by you.


Alturas is approaching it’s 6 year anniversary and we wanted to spend the next few months sharing some of our before and after photos with you. These improvements haven’t only been recent but over the past six years. Here is the clinic when construction had started (above) in the first months of use, and now (below).

sanctuary medical facility

It is important to reflect on where we were and how far along we have come in just a few short years. We are proud of our dedicated team and leaders for getting us to where we are today, but couldn't have done it without all of our supporters, like you.

Now, on to what you are all here to read about…..the animals.


September has been no different than the other months as we are staying very busy raising the animals we have had and receiving more in need of help. Fortunately, many of these rescues had quick releases.

The month started out with an orange-chinned parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis) that was found alone on the ground. This isn’t normal behavior so it was brought to us to check over and to see if it was ill or injured. It appeared healthy and could fly so we kept it for a few days to observe its behavior and to give it the opportunity to eat in case it was just a little weak. After a short time, our veterinarian took it near to where it came from but around where other parakeets are found so it could join a flock of its own. An exciting rescue and quick release. To see the release, click the photo.

parakeet releaseClick photo to view video

About 2 weeks ago we received a call in the early evening about a howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) that was on the ground and thought to be lost by the mother. An adult was nearby trying to come down so we were truly hoping this was the mom coming to collect the baby so it could live out its life naturally and all would end happily. Unfortunately, we discovered it was a juvenile, male howler monkey that appeared to have been in a fight with a larger male. This is common in nature as males will try and pick off smaller or weaker males so they do not have to compete for the ladies. The howler is currently in our clinic as we did stitch one of the wounds (photo on left) and he was being treated for some respiratory issues. We will be releasing him this week, stronger and ready for life in the wild.

howler monkey 1

howler monkey 2

While we have been getting more sun than is average for the time of year, there are still heavy rains. With the rains come landslides. These are not only dangerous to us but can take out trees and corridors for animals to naturally cross. While men were hard at work to clear and repair some of this damage, a two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) was found near a tree that had fallen. While it did not appear to be injured, this sloth was very wet and the breathing was labored. We were treating it for pneumonia but unfortunately, this sloth did not make it. Sloths can be susceptible to respiratory issues when they get too wet and stay wet for a long period of time.

sloth with pneumoniaThe sloth with pneumonia when it was picked up. We do our best to communicate to the vet team with photos of what to expect when the animals arrive.

We had also received a red-fronted parrotlet (Touit costaricensis) that came to us after flying into a gate of a house, suffering a wing injury. Here you see him getting his bandage changed to set his wing in a way it would heal. While under observation he was not doing well, the wing was not getting any better and unfortunately, he did not make it in the end. The days when we lose animals are not easy and it is difficult when you try all you can, yet it still doesn’t work. Our team is supportive of each other though and we all get by together. When we release animals, these hard days can turn around for the better.

red fronted parrotThe veterinary staff changing the bandages and medicating the red-fronted parrot.


The juvenile coati (Nasua narica) we discussed last month has been upgraded to a larger enclosure, also in pre-release, to allow for more climbing, exploring, and to learn natural behaviors further away from humans. It is now weaned and eating a diet of fruits, vegetables, and different sources of protein.

The baby kinkajou (Potus flavus) we have been raising is out of the nursery and in a larger rehabilitation enclosure. It is moving around well and eating a lot at night. When we have young animals it is always very exciting to progress them to the next stage of rehabilitation putting them closer to the wild.

KinkajouKinkajou now in a larger rehabilitation enclosure.

medicating the olive ridley sea turtleHere we are extracting the air and medicating the olive-ridley sea turtle. It is a team effort as she is strong and she has to stay still and calm as possible.

The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) we spoke about last month is still in our care. While we thought she was healthier than appeared, we have discovered she is holding air between her lungs and shell due to a tear in her lungs. This prevents her from being able to dive, and therefore eat if she were in the wild.  We have been extracting this air to allow her to breathe easier and promote this healing. Normally we would send her to a rehab center specifically for marine life, but unfortunately they are closed to receiving animals at this time. Our vet team is working hard to ensure she is getting the medications best for her and keeping her comfortable so she can heal.

We have two juvenile raccoons (Procyon cancrivorus) now in our care, but they are both in pre-release in adjoining enclosures. They do not have free reign to both enclosures yet, but they can see and smell each other so we can slowly introduce them. One of them is still getting used to his new diet and their safety is a top priority. We will open the slide separating them soon to encourage natural behaviors between each other and prepare them for release.

raccoonsOne of the raccoons in our pre-release enclosures

Opossums are our most common animal received, often because they will come in with their mother or will be brought in because the mother was found dead. Some opossums can have up to 20 babies at one time. Currently here we still have the baby woolly opossum (Caluromys derbianus), four 4-eyed opossums (Philander opossum), and two common opossums (Didelphis marsupialis). Marsupials will give birth to their young while they are still developing. This is why they are in the mother's pouch until they are big and strong enough to either ride on the mother's back or walk alone. Before they are born, they do develop very strong arms and mouths in relation to the rest of their body so they can move to the pouch and latch to the mother for nutrition. Opossums eat a lot of ticks, which is great for us and important for a healthy ecosystem. If you ever find an opossum that is dead, be sure to check if it is a female and if so, check her pouch for babies. These animals are great for a healthy ecosystem.

Four eyed opossumsFour-eyed opossums in their make-shift pouch.


Starting strong with a release in the first few days of the month is a great feeling. A grey-lined hawk, (Buteo nitidus) was able to fly and return to the wild. We received the call stating it appeared the hawk was hit by something and too young to be alone (we are not always sure of the exact story which makes veterinary medicine difficult). Upon arrival, we did discover it was not a baby and had no fractures or injuries. Before release, we wanted to be sure it was strong and could eat well in case there was any trauma we could not see. After a few days of observation, he was fit to go back to the wild.

An exciting and unexpected intake for Alturas this month was a hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate). Even though we currently have another species of sea turtle in our care, these are not common intakes. At the moment, we are the nearest center for them and are doing all we can to help at this time. This inspires some creativity while they are here and, as always, the best staff working to ensure their time with us is as stress-free as possible. This sea turtle arrived because it was found by a research organization in a research net and appeared very lethargic. It was taken to the research station when they contacted us. Working with MINAE, the turtle was brought here to be checked over. We did blood work and it was put under observation. She was very active and did not appear to have any health issues so we released her just 2 days later. Thank you to all who worked hard to make this rescue and release as easy as possible.

hawksbill sea turtle 1

hawksbill sea turtle 2

We also released a boa (Boa imperator) that came into our care early in the month. He was brought to us by the Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Telecommunications (MINAE) and fortunately only needed a little help as it had a few clumps of ticks stuck to it. No major injuries were apparent, but we did do a checkup just to be sure it was healthy.  After discovering nothing wrong, we removed the ticks and cleaned it well before giving it back to MINAE to release in a remote area, near to where it was found. This is an important part of the release as we do not want to interfere with the species population densities. We, as humans, interfere enough with wild habitats so every step is made to try and maintain natural processes.

A fiery billed aracari (Pteroglossus frantzii) came into our care after it was hit by a car. This is one of the top five reasons we receive animals. The aracari was shaken up and a bit disoriented, but overall in good health. To be sure he had no internal or neurological damage, we did keep it a short time to make sure it was moving and eating well. Once the veterinarian passed it with a clean bill of health, MINAE took it near to where it was found to be released.

releasing bird

A black-headed squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii) came into our care after it was electrocuted. As we have discussed in other newsletters, most of the electricity lines in Costa Rica are not insulated, putting many animals at risk for electrocution. They will try and use power lines to cross over the roads or just as a mode of movement when they come across them. Fortunately, this individual was not badly burned, just a bit shocked, and could return to the wild after just a few days.

With the slow arrival of interns, we are excited for them to start doing projects to help them learn and help us learn as well. One of our interns, Claudia, is measuring growth in some of our baby animals. The opossums in our care are getting weighed and measured each week to help determine and compare growth patterns. This is useful for rehabilitation centers like ours, to have more information regarding the growth of baby animals and gauge whether an animal may or may not be growing well. We will do a highlight and hear more from her, her findings, and the other interns, later, but we are excited about their research.

two interns

September 2020