Overseas Intern Experience Stories

As many of you know, the volunteers and interns we get make our sanctuary what it is today, and we are so grateful for their hard work. We welcome volunteers from all over the world, with different educational backgrounds. We have started inviting volunteers/interns to write a small piece about their time at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary so that our readers can see first-hand what it’s like to be part of our team. Scroll down below to read the monthly inserts and get a better idea about life at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.

Carter Case

Carter Case

Hello! My name is Carter Case and I'm a biology-ecology graduate from the University of Alberta. My entire life I've been passionate about working with wildlife all around the world. Currently, I am trying to get job experience to eventually begin my career in Conservation Biology. With the world rapidly changing, this is becoming an even more crucial field of science requiring lots of young, dedicated people.

During my time at Alturas, I was able to find this work/life experience in many different ways. As an animal husbandry intern, I got the opportunity to work with many amazing animals from all over Costa Rica such as Sloths, Monkeys, Tucans, Macaws, Anteaters, an Ocelot, and many many more! I also conducted two different studies during my time at Alturas that focused on animal monitoring through the use of camera traps. My first study was focused on the analysis of Ocelot behavior with these cameras.

By creating enrichment items for the resident Ocelot, Leo, the goal was to enforce positive behaviors naturally seen in the wild and reduce stereotypical ones. My second study also revolved around camera traps as I set them all around the Sanctuary to observe the surrounding Fauna. With this data, I was then able to calculate measures of diversity and assemble a comprehensive species list for the area surrounding Alturas.

My Experience: Wildlife Husbandry Intern
Read more: Carter Case

Tenna Sturm | Volunteer Coordinator 

Tenna Sturm

Hi everyone, my name is Tenna, and I’ve been the volunteer coordinator here at Alturas for the past three months. I’m originally from Denmark, where I’m currently doing a master’s degree in veterinary medicine that I hope I will finish by summer next year. In July, I applied for the job since my fall semester got canceled due to the pandemic. I’ve volunteered multiple times at different sanctuaries around the world (including Costa Rica). Wildlife has been a big passion for a long time, so I thought coming to Alturas would be a great way to spend my newfound free time and get some more experience in working with wildlife and gaining experience in supervision.

My work here basically consisted of helping to train the new volunteers and supervise the volunteers cleaning and feeding, and to make sure that all the animals got enrichment for the day. When we were not cleaning and preparing enrichment, I would try to figure out something for the volunteers to do, e.g., going to the beach to collect browse and almonds or just going to a waterfall to relax. When I had time, I would also help Sandy and Rebeca in the clinic, which I really enjoyed since I learned a lot about the emergency treatment of the animals that we got in. Another thing I enjoyed was helping shape one of the research projects on the behaviors of the Capuchins. As a vet student, I’ve learned a bit about observing behavior, but I’ve never really had the opportunity to do the observations firsthand and using different sampling methods. But it wasn’t all work; the volunteers and I had some great adventures exploring the area, for example, surfing, whale watching, and zip-lining. It has been so much fun!

My Experience: Volunteer Coordinator
Read more: Tenna Sturm | Volunteer Coordinator 

Claudia Comelato

Claudia Comelato

Hello! My name is Claudia, I'm 22 and I'm from Italy.

I'm a student from the degree course "Animal Care" of the University of Padua and I'm carrying out a 2-month Wildlife Husbandry internship at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.

My experience so far has been simply wonderful from two points of view: the emotional aspect and the professional one. Working in the sanctuary is giving me the possibility to understand what are the needs and the concerns of the animals that cannot be released, and taking care of them daily to give them the best life possible makes me feel joyful. But my favorite thing is working in the rehabilitation center and seeing the animals recovering from bad health situations, growing, and sometimes being released... It really gives me positive feelings.

As regards the professional perspective, I'm learning a lot about the care and rehabilitation of Costa Rican wildlife from a practical point of view, and I'm having the possibility to work close to incredibly skilled staff members. I'm assisting the veterinarians in the clinic, so I'm practicing basic clinical procedures, improving my knowledge and my skills.

I'm also working on two research projects, an ethological study on white-faced capuchin monkeys and a study on neonatal growth (our neonates are so cute!).

To conclude, being here is such a great experience and I'm glad to have chosen AWS for my internship; the staff members and the other interns are super cool and I am enjoying my time here so much!

My Experience: Wildlife Husbandry Intern

Jasmin Mandix

Jasmin Mandix

My name is Jasmin, I am from Denmark and am currently a volunteer at Alturas wildlife sanctuary. I was supposed to be here for 4 weeks, but because of the world situation, I am here until June.

This is not my first time volunteering at the sanctuary. My first time here was in October 2017, where I volunteered for 4 weeks. I absolutely fell in love with the place and what we do here. So much that I actually came back in march ‘18 as the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator. It was an incredible experience getting to work with some awesome volunteers and animals. And so after 2 years away from Costa Rica, I was longing to get back. Although this time it is a little bit different, as we are only 3 volunteers left. After the COVID situation, the Sanctuary decided not to take in any more volunteers and asked local volunteers to stay home to ensure everyone’s safety and risk of getting infected. This has meant that we (the volunteers) together with the amazing staff, have been cleaning, feeding (and enriching) the animals on our own. The work is definitely hard, but it is all worth it when you see animals getting released into their natural habitat. Even just the little things, like an animal enjoying and interacting with the enrichment that I prepared for them, is for me, an amazing feeling. The situation has also meant that most volunteer activities have been canceled, as we can’t go to the beach, town, etc. But the staff have been absolutely amazing in finding alternatives and fun activities for us!

My Experience: Volunteer
Read more: Jasmin Mandix

Rhiannon Ferriday

Rhiannon Ferriday

Hello, my name is Rhiannon and I am from California. As an aspiring veterinarian, I applied for the veterinary and orphan care internship position at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary with the intent of learning as much as I can about Costa Rican wildlife and conservation medicine. In my first few weeks as an intern, I have already learned and experienced so much more than I could have ever asked for. Dr. Sandy Quirós Beita and the on-site veterinary assistant, Rebeca, are very knowledgeable and it is inspiring to work alongside a staff that is so passionate about wildlife. Each day, I assist with the day-to-day treatments for animals in the clinic, feed the animals in the nursery, rehabilitation, and quarantine areas, and perform regular cleaning and animal enrichment. When a new case comes in, I help with the initial exam and procedures such as administering anesthesia, taking radiographs, and giving medications. Upon my arrival, I was also given several options for a project to work on during my stay. From these options, I chose to work with a disabled anteater who is unable to use her hind legs. Using range of motion exercises, heat therapy, and hydrotherapy, my goal is to help improve her mobility.

My Experience: Veterinary Intern
Read more: Rhiannon Ferriday

Jo Bowcock

Jo Bowcock

Hi, my name is Jo Bowcock and my husband and I retired to Costa Rica 3 years ago. I’ve always loved animals and soon realized after arriving in this beautiful country that I wanted to volunteer and help wherever I could.

I looked around the area and went to Alturas to see if I would be helpful there, and I’ve been volunteering twice a week ever since!

I love to clean and, hard as they are, deep clean Mondays are the most satisfying - I love to see all my little friend's enclosures looking clean and fresh for them, after all, it helps to keep them healthy. Feeding time is always fun, all the birds and animals are such characters. I won’t name any favorites because they’re all gorgeous.

My Experience: Volunteer
Read more: Jo Bowcock

Andy Progulakis

Andy Progulakis

As a media intern for Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, I had the privilege to work alongside the staff in creating a "Day in the life of a volunteer" video (click the button below to view the video). Captivated by the passionate individuals who maintain the sanctuary, the aim of my project was to give a visual representation of the ethical and sustainable practices in place at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary. Having the chance to also immerse myself as a volunteer meant that there were various opportunities to learn valuable skills. Gaining experience in animal husbandry allowed me to get a deeper understanding of the importance of animal welfare and rehabilitation. I hope to spread this message throughout my video and give a closer look at volunteer life for those also interested in helping a great and valuable cause.

My Experience: Intern

Amelie Gallein

Amelie Gallein

Hey everyone, my name is Amelie and I'm from Germany. I'm taking a gap year after high school and wanted to go to Costa Rica to work with native animals and help to restore and rehabilitate local wildlife. That's why I chose Alturas! We do basic, everyday stuff like cleaning the enclosures and feeding the animals, but also help & watch with necropsies, operations or running tests. Feeding the babies at night is also one of our tasks, and the really young ones are being fed by a bottle, which is at times challenging, but also really fun to do.

One of the things that give you the best feeling is the release of animals. I was lucky and saw two releases; one of a paca and one of a Margay, one of Costa Rica's native wildcat species. The margay was in rehabilitation for over one and a half years and it was so fulfilling watching it run into the jungle. But it doesn't need to be a big event like a release to realize how important the work we do here is.

My Experience: Volunteer
Read more: Amelie Gallein

Érika Boisvert-Vigneault

Érika Boisvert-Vigneault

I have had the chance to be a wildlife intern at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary for 7 weeks as part of my studies in ecology. As an intern, I had a project to complete: I monitored the diets of some animals in the sanctuary because we realized that there were a lot of leftovers when cleaning their enclosures. I worked with the assistant veterinarian and she was incredibly helpful. She gave me all the information I needed to analyze the data I collected and taught me the basics of animal nutrition. I learned way more than I would have imagined arriving here!

Apart from my project, I helped as a volunteer, cleaning, feeding (day and night) and creating enrichment, but I also had the opportunity to assist the veterinarian when help was needed. I ended up discovering new interests, but also living extraordinary experiences that I never thought I would live. Being at Alturas allows you to discover so much about nature in Costa Rica, but even more about yourself.

My Experience: Wildlife Husbandry Intern

Anna Schobinger

Anna Schobinger

Hi, my name is Anna, I’m from Switzerland and I volunteered at Alturas for a month. I always wanted to volunteer with animals and at Alturas, I had the opportunity to work really closely with all kinds of species, even though I had no background in animal caretaking. It was so much fun feeding the animals and preparing new enrichment with the other volunteers. The work at the sanctuary is challenging but really rewarding and I learned so much from the amazing staff. I never expected to be trusted with highly important tasks like baby night feedings and it was an experience I‘ll never forget. Also, the sanctuary is located in a beautiful jungle where I got to see wild animals like monkeys, peccaries, and birds daily. On my off days, I explored the beautiful beaches and waterfalls in the area, which made the experience even better. The best part for me was when we had the chance to release animals back into the wild where they belong. The staff at Alturas does an amazing job and I can‘t recommend the volunteer program enough!

My Experience: Volunteer