On Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, there are several opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to visit or volunteer with sloths, monkeys, snakes, and even pizote, a charming creature in the raccoon family also known as the white-nosed coati. The Sloth Sanctuary and the Jaguar Rescue Center are two places that practice rescue, rehabilitation, and release, and both offer interactive tours as well as extended volunteer opportunities for visitors.
At the Jaguar Rescue Center in Playa Chiquita, a few kilometers south of Puerto Viejo, Encar the primatologist and and Sandro her herpatologist husband are a couple of passionate animal lovers and naturalists who created the Jaguar Centro de Rescate in response to the community need for a place for the rescue of orphaned or injured animals, who are cared for and raised with a goal of releasing the animals back into the wild once rehabilitated. The Jaguar Rescue Center accepts visitors every day except Sunday at 9:30 am or 11:30 am for 1.5 hour tours, and volunteers can apply to help at the center for a minimum of three weeks. More information about the Jaguar Rescue Center and their volunteer opportunities can be found on their website.
Nestled in the rainforest along the coast between Limon and Cahuita, the Sloth Sanctuary has cared for hundreds of sloths in the twenty years it opened its doors with the mission of caring for orphaned and injured creatures specifically of the megalonychidae and bradypodidae species, as these sleepy, smiley, and slow-moving, two and three-toed relatives of the armadillo are scientifically classified . The “Buttercup Tour” is named after the sanctuary’s first resident sloth, and is offered seven days a week starting at 8am, on the hour. The Sloth Sanctuary is remote, and reaching it takes a bit of effort, but the reward of meeting and learning so much about these members of the country’s most symbolic species is mutual, as tourist visits and the help of volunteers allow the Sanctuary to fulfill its mission.
If you’re an artist, consider applying for the Sloth Sanctuary’s Artist in Residence Program. Writers, photographers, painters, and pretty much all creative types are invited to apply. Resident artists at the Sloth Sanctuary are exempt from much of the dirty work required of other volunteers and are allotted ample time and space to create works inspired by the sloths and their natural rainforest environment; the only requirement is that the artistic process be documented and broadcast, ideally motivating others to visit and take part in the Sloth Sanctuary.