It’s not every day you’re invited to a wildlife rescue ranch in the bio-diverse haven of Costa Rica. We enjoyed an exclusive visit to the Toucan Rescue Ranch on the outskirts of the country’s capital, San José.
The Toucan Rescue Ranch was set up by Leslie Howle and Jorge Murillo back in 2004, Leslie gave up everything in her home town of Reno, Nevada in the USA to help the needy toucans of the Costa Rica rain forests. It wasn’t long after setting up the ranch that the pair began to take in other breeds of wildlife and eventually their first sloth, Millie, back in 2007. Millie ultimately transformed the Toucan Rescue Ranch into a wildlife rescue center and she is still a resident there today.
Carol, our tour guide who left the corporate world behind to help out at the ranch, welcomed us with open arms and informed us that she would be running our special photography tour.
The noises from the rescue ranch were incredible. The screeching toucans, spider monkeys and macaws constantly interrupted Carol and she seemed completely unphased by it all, like a teacher in a classroom full of screaming children.
A beautiful vocal toucan takes residence in the reception area of the ranch giving all visitors a loud greeting.
Carol told us stories of how each animal ended up at the ranch in as much detail as we requested, some of which had us in tears. First, we met a beautiful mealy amazon bird called Lorita who gave us a loud welcoming to the bird enclosure.
Lorita was brought the ranch because she was a ‘noisy’ pet. She had no feathers on her chest and her feet were completely black from the condition of the small cage she was kept in for around 15 years. Within months of being at the ranch, Lorita’s feathers came back but she refused to leave her enclosure. The ranch staff left her door open under supervision for around a year and eventually she ventured out to explore a world she had never experienced before. Seeing her so happy with the other animals, including her boyfriend Jake, and being able to freely move and play with toys made us crumble inside. Lorita is quite the celebrity with a big following on YouTube, here you can see Lorita taking a bath and enjoying the Costa Rica weather which should give you the same warmth that we experienced being there.
We saw many animals at the ranch that we had never seen before, Pygmy owls, an oncilla, spider monkeys, greater grison, great green macaws, crested caracaras and two types of sloth.
We visited the wonderful Mexican Hairy Porcupines and Greater Grison, and we met Emma, the lively otter who was recently the subject of a massive fundraising campaign for a new enclosure. The campaign was a great success and Emma will be introduced into her new enclosure very soon.
Keep an eye out on the Toucan Rescue Ranch’s social media pages for fundraisers and information on how you can help out.We were later introduced to the two-toed sloths, who are officially the slowest mammals on earth and sleep for around 10 hours a day! Ellie woke up for a tasty yellow flower before going straight back to sleep during our visit. She, along with another sloth, are soon being put onto the Sloth Release Program.
We saw a number of owls at the ranch, some of the stories are heartbreaking on why they are residing in their new home but being at the ranch is the best reassurance that they are in the very best of hands.
The rescued Spider Monkeys were very friendly and watched us as we were told stories on how they are considered permanent residents. The Spider Monkeys are given sanctuary at the ranch because they would not be accepted by a wild troop if released, and therefore wouldn’t survive.
The tour is not only an opportunity to see tropical animals up close, it is also perfect lesson on how these animals live, eat, survive and breed, and how they interact with other species in the Costa Rican jungle.
After tears, heart warming stories, and even delicious Costa Rican chocolate, we packed up our lens kits to leave. Just as we said goodbye, Leslie brought out the baby sloths and invited us to join them while they had their breakfast. We couldn’t believe our luck. We also met Bella, a beautifully elegant teenage sloth who loves climbing, Carol pinpointed her likeliness to a ‘fifth member of the Beatles’.
How could a day get any better than breakfast with baby sloths!
Booking a ranch tour is one of our recommended top things to do in Costa Rica. If you are planning to see the famous Sloth Sanctuary, be sure to see and support other sanctuaries along the way.
Visit the Ranch’s website here for information on the residents, adoption, release programs and donations.
Contact: [email protected] if you would like any more information.
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We have derived this blog from personal experience after spending a day at the Toucan Rescue Ranch. Please leave your comments below if you’d like to know anything else.