Overseas Volunteer 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Eve Pawsey

Eve Pawsey
Volunteer Coordinator (June-September)

I first came to Alturas expecting to learn about the species found in Costa Rica and to explore part of the country. However, what I got was so much more than this. During my time as volunteer coordinator I was able to work as part of an incredible team of caring people who worked tirelessly to benefit the species that come into their care and strive towards rehabilitating every case. Not only was I working hands on with the animals in their care, but I was also meeting new people and exploring new exciting places. Being here allowed me to improve upon my managerial skills whilst I oversaw the ever-changing group of volunteers in the daily tasks and enjoyable outings organized by myself (such as trips to beaches and waterfalls). As well as this, I had a first-hand insight into the care and rehabilitation of a wide range of species and the workings of an animal-based non-government organization. Overall, I had an incredible experience working at Alturas wildlife sanctuary due to both the wildlife I was able to care for and the people who made my time there as special and insightful as it was. Until next time Alturas.

French Interns from the University of Nantes

French Interns

Marrianne Roux, Francois De La Marre, Leah Le Boterff & Sarah La Fontaine

We were lucky enough to have four veterinary interns from the University of Nantes, France stay with us for six weeks. Here is what sums up their stay...

Our six weeks can be resumed as the following: one billion fun titi monkeys, adorable sloths, amazing white face monkeys in the clinic and of course, crazy staff members!

Overall, we had the opportunity to work with an amazing team and with incredible animals, we probably won’t see again soon. As veterinary students eager to learn about wildlife we had the time of our life there! And once again, a huge thank you to all the staff and especially to Sandy and Rebeca for everything they’ve taught us and for their kindness.

Rene Sauer

Rene Sauer

I am from California, USA and have been volunteering at Alturas for about two weeks now. It has been an amazing adventure full of wonderful people and experiences! I have gained so much valuable knowledge in the short time I have been here, and not just about the vast diversity of wildlife in Costa Rica. All the staff and volunteers have unknowingly taught me so much about compassion, living in the moment and the value of hard work plus its rewards. Such a close quarters, education-based program has allowed me to thrive in my search for more knowledge regarding the animal kingdom. I am so wildly grateful for this once in a lifetime experience, I will never forget all the animals (including the humans) that I have grown to love and appreciate!!

Where I'm From: California, USA

Emily Vandenberg

Emily Vandenberg

Hi, my name is Emily and I spent 2 months at Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary as a wildlife husbandry intern. Being from a small town in southern Ontario, Canada, I was a little nervous about coming to Alturas. I have never been to Costa Rica before and speak very little Spanish, but all the staff were more than accommodating. Their warm and friendly personalities made me feel right at home. They were very welcoming and answered all of my questions with a big smile on their faces.

During my time here, I learned a lot about the amount effort, patience and dedication it takes to work at a sanctuary and rehabilitation center. The work is challenging but rewarding and the rewards far outweigh the effort. In addition to the routine animal care, I was able to set up camera traps in the nocturnal animal enclosures. These camera traps would video record the animal's movement in the enclosure and their behavior.

Volunteer Duration: 2 Month Wildlife Husbandry Intern
Where I'm From: Canada
Read more: Emily Vandenberg