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Wildlife Releases in 2019

Orphaned Howler Monkeys Rescued as Infants are Released!

After undergoing intensive and lengthy rehabilitation in our rescue center, three orphaned howler monkeys have finally returned to freedom in the forest! Jordanny, Sophie and Lola had been with us since being rescued as fragile babies four years ago. Having lost their mothers they would not have survived in the wild as tiny infants and needed 24-hour care from our dedicated staff at Refuge for Wildlife.

Sophie, Jordanny, and Lola exploring their new jungle home

“It was with great joy that our team watched as all three monkeys confidently left the enclosure and explored their new home – free and wild where they belong! Our job is a tough one, but moments like this remind us of how important it is for us to continue helping and protecting the wildlife of Costa Rica.”  – Laura Wilkinson, Media Manager, Refuge for Wildlife

howler monkey baby and adult in jungle
Jordanny soon after he arrived at the Refuge and four years later when he was released

Back in early 2015, Jordanny was found by some local children sitting all alone by the side of the road in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.  We do not know what happened to his mother, but Jordanny was only a few weeks old and if he hadn’t been found, he would have starved, been attacked by predators or maybe even hit by a car. Howler infants are totally dependent on their mothers for the first several months of their lives which means caring for young orphaned howlers require special skills. Inside our dedicated infant howler monkey nursery, our experienced staff provide each infant with the comfort and care they require, which includes: regulating their temperature, providing comforting plush toys to snuggle and hand-feeding each orphan formula every 2-3 hours.

Jordanny making friends with Lola

When Jordanny first arrived, he was provided with around-the-clock care from our trained staff and, because of his playful personality, he quickly became a favorite among our caregivers. Jordanny has a zest for life and loves to show everyone just how much fun he’s having with a great big smile! As an infant, he was one of the most vocal monkeys in the nursery and was always calling out to his friends to play with him. He absolutely loved to play tag and could climb around the nursery for hours chasing his friends, grinning the entire time. 

Almost exactly a year after Jordanny was rescued, Lola and Sophie joined us at the Refuge. Both girls were transferred to us from another rescue center that wasn’t able to care for primates and we were happy to give them a nurturing place to grow up. Sophie and Lola were both around 8 months old and Jordanny was just over a year old when he met his new forever family. Jordanny, Lola, and Sophie were instantly friends because both girls were also very playful and loved to cause mischief.  The trio quickly bonded and became a new family, supporting each other throughout the rehabilitation process. As our photographs show, all three monkeys love to smile – they seem to always be having a great time together!

Over the next several years, thanks to the exceptional care provided by the Refuge staff, the monkeys developed all the essential skills they would require to survive in the wild. Finally, in mid-December, they were transferred to the Refuge’s newly built release enclosure, located in a heavily forested and remote area of San Juanillo, on land belonging to the ecological and spiritual community of PachaMama.

“Helping Refuge for Wildlife with this important rescue and release work is the least PachaMama can do.  PachaMama will keep supporting as much as possible and hope that more people will recognize what dedication and crucial work they do so that we can better protect, understand and keep enjoying the natural world around us.” Chandani Bakeeff, PachaMama 

Moments after the hatch was opened

Planned by Gavin Bruce from International Animal Rescue and Dr. Francisco Sánchez Murillo, Refuge for Wildlife Veterinarian, the enclosure was designed to be rapidly erected or removed and relocated in a modular fashion for future use in different locations. Built out of welded steel posts, with two types of metal fencing to protect against predators like boa constrictors, it is also fitted with a special doorway for entry and exit of caregivers as well as a hatch for the moment when the monkeys are ready for release. The build and installation of the release enclosure were carried out by Tua Oyam, construction lead from PachaMama, and Omar Varela Murillo, Diego Ortiz, and Marcos Soliz. Matt Banes, an Advisory Board Member for the Refuge, oversaw completing the build according to the planned release program schedule, budget, and specification.

Inside the enclosure at the release location

Having already had very limited human contact during the pre-release stage of their rehabilitation process, once in the release enclosure the monkeys were provided with food twice a day but had no other human interaction or noises. Refuge Veterinarian Francisco Sánchez Murillo visited each morning to monitor the monkeys and make sure they’re fit and healthy, showing appropriate foraging skills, eating the foods they would find in the wild, that they were also displaying appropriate behavior towards each other and had adapted well to every aspect of their new environment.

The release enclosure deep in the forest

After several weeks adjusting to their new surroundings, the three were finally deemed ready for release. The top of the enclosure was opened and, within minutes they all climbed out confidently high up into the trees. It takes an enormous amount of dedication from our staff to take an orphaned infant howler monkeys through the rehabilitation program to the final release stage. Because of the types of injuries endured by many of our rescues, not all orphaned howlers survive to adulthood so a release like this one is especially emotional for us.


howler monkey baby and adult in junge
Lola the day she arrived at the Refuge and the day she finally went home

“We are very excited to finally release these howler monkeys back to the forest after years of intensive care provided by all the staff of the refuge at the different stages. Together as a team our veterinary crew, animal keepers, admin personnel and volunteers have successfully completed the final stage of the rehabilitation of these individuals and we cannot be more excited for them. We have completed our goal after a tremendous effort from everyone. To be able to see these monkeys free is the best reward we can have.” – Dr. Francisco Sánchez Murillo, Veterinarian, Refuge for Wildlife

howler monkey infant and adult released
Sophie as an infant and now as a confident young adult

The monkeys’ journey back to freedom was achieved not only thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Refuge itself, but also with the support of numerous other groups and individuals. The rehabilitation and release operation would not have been possible without the support of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and specifically the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) office in Santa Cruz.

“This release was a wonderful ending after the tragedy of these monkeys losing their mothers. Watching them climb out into the pristine jungle near a beautiful river was an amazing thing to experience. PachaMama gave invaluable support to the release. Not only did they provide the location for the release site, they also provided volunteers, including Gal Yudkin who was in charge of providing food for the monkeys. Special thanks to Tyohar Kastiel, founder and spiritual leader of PachaMama, Tua Oyam, Ananda Nurick, and Suvan Eyal for their incredible support.” – Brenda Bombard, Founder, Refuge for Wildlife

Senior Monkey Attacked by Alpha Returned to the Forest

Bernard is an older male howler who was rescued after he was found inside an auto repair shop in Samara. With wounds all over his face, he had been attacked by an alpha male. Because of his advanced age, it’s likely that Bernard was the alpha of a group and was challenged by a younger, stronger, rival.  Although this kind of attack might seem harsh, this is normal behavior for howler monkeys.

We returned to Samara and released Bernard near the river where there are lots of big, green trees. Bernard was a little hesitant at first, unsure of what was going on, but once he realized he was back in the forest he ran and climbed high into the treetops and started to howl. Most likely Bernard will now find some females and start a new troop or he will take his place as a submissive male in another troop. Either way, he’ll be living out the rest of his days as a free and wild monkey.

Baby Vulture Cruelly Attacked By Humans is Released

When Elmer was just a tiny baby black vulture (Coragyps atratus) he was cruelly injured by someone who intended to kill him by pouring a hot, sticky substance on his head and back. We are still unsure of what exactly was poured on him, but it melted his skin and caused severe burns and disfigurement. Elmer was rushed to our clinic for intensive medical care including severe pain management medication, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and silver sulfadiazine cream for his burns.

Thankfully the treatment Elmer received helped him to heal quickly and within a few weeks, he was ready to leave the clinic. We were every worried he might have permanent damage to one of his eyes due to the trauma, but thankfully Elmer sustained no permanent damage.

Because Elmer was just a baby when he was rescued, he needed special care from our staff so that he could grow up healthy and strong. Once his flight feathers started to grow, we built Elmer a flight enclosure where he could practice flying and before long he was ready to be freed. We released Elmer near a beautiful river, next to a huge area of untouched natural habitat. We are so thrilled that we were able to help Elmer and although vultures aren’t exactly known for their beauty, we think this boy is absolutely gorgeous!

Howler Released After Orthopaedic Surgery Rehabilitation

Marisol was released in late March after a lengthy rehabilitation at Refuge for Wildlife. Back in early July 2018, Marisol was injured when she was hit by a car in Tamarindo. Unfortunately, due to deforestation and development, natural tree crossings have been reduced and many howlers now must crossroads on the ground, risking their lives. Marisol’s leg was very badly broken and without orthopedic surgery in San Jose, it looked like we would have to amputate her leg.  We have had success with this type of surgery in the past and we felt Marisol was a good candidate for the surgery.

Marisol’s orthopedic surgery

Thanks to generous donations from the community, we were able to pay for Marisol’s surgery and save her leg from amputation! Dr. Randall Arguedas and Dra. Marshia Solano from the Veterinary Clinic “Pet Groom Solution”, with the help of the Refuge’s Dr. Francisco Sánchez Murillo, performed the complicated surgery in San Jose a few days after Marisol’s rescue.

The surgery was more complicated than expected and took 3 veterinarians 3.5 hours to repair because, unfortunately, once Marisol’s leg was opened, we found that the damage was more severe than shown on the x-ray. Not only was her femur completely snapped in half, but there was also another piece of the bone that had broken off. This made the placement of the screws for the titanium plate more difficult. In the end, it took a titanium plate, 5 screws, a pin through the center of the femur and a wire supporting the smaller broken piece of bone to stabilize the leg.

After the surgery, Marisol was in good spirits. Although she didn’t like receiving her injections for pain management, she was rewarded with a tasty monkey “smoothie” of sweet potato and apple to give her more energy and help her heal faster. Marisol gobbled it up! A good appetite is a great sign and Marisol recovered well. Unfortunately, it was this smaller piece of bone that resulted in a longer than expected recovery period for Marisol.  Because of this, Marisol required intensive care from our dedicated staff who ensured she was well taken care of and comfortable during her rehabilitation.

It took more than 4 months for the fractured bone to heal with Marisol needing kennel rest the entire time. Thankfully Marisol was an excellent patient! Throughout all her treatments and care, she has been calm and showed absolutely no signs of stress. She was very calm but was also one of the most “chatty” howlers we’ve had in our clinic. She enjoyed talking with other patients and was very curious and always interested in what was going on around her.

Unfortunately, once the bone had healed, we had to remove the titanium plate because the skin had a bad reaction to the metal. Although rare, this kind of bad reaction can happen which resulted in more recovery time needed for the incision to heal from removing the plate.

Although her rehabilitation took much longer than expected, Marisol quickly regained the strength in her leg once she was moved into a larger outdoor enclosure and could safely build up the muscle again. Soon she was climbing without any problems, but she had, unfortunately, started to scratch her ankle. We didn’t want to take any risks with infection from those scratches because she was finally out of the clinic after so many setbacks which is why we applied the red bandage you will see in the photo. Thankfully the rest of her rehabilitation progressed without any further incident and Marisol was scheduled for release!

As Marisol got closer to her release date, we introduced another female howler to her enclosure.  Daniana was found by the side of the road in Tamarindo and was dehydrated and thin and only needed a few weeks of care from our veterinary staff before she was ready to be released. Marisol and Daniana became friends quickly and since they were both from the same area and both ready for release at the same time, releasing them together was ideal.

In late March 2019, both Daniana and Marisol were released together in a heavily forested area far from roads and electrical cables. Daniana was very quick to run out of the kennel and quickly climbed into the trees. Marisol took a little longer and slowly climbed out of the kennel. Once she saw Daniana in the treetops, Marisol climbed quickly up into the canopy and to freedom.

Marisol’s accident, and the more than 8 months of rehabilitation could have been prevented. Although roads are a necessity for humans to travel, there are ways to provide safer crossings for wildlife. Through rope bridges, underground passageways and even simple, “Wildlife Crossing” signs and speed limits, we can prevent accidents like Marisol’s. We are very pleased that we were able to save Marisol’s leg, but we would much rather have prevented the injury in the first place. Tamarindo has many existing rope bridges installed by the Salve Monos non-profit group and they have recently installed several more rope bridge crossings to help arboreal wildlife cross roads safely to stop accidents in the future.

10 Animals Rescued, Rehabilitated and Released

We are excited to report that in one day we released 10 animals back to the forest! Some had been rescued when they were infants while others needed intensive medical care from our veterinary team due to illness and accidents.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication from our staff and volunteers, we were able to release: 2 howler monkeys, 2 Mexican hairy dwarf porcupines, 2 Pacific screech owls, 2 variegated squirrels, 1 barn owl and 1 collared aracari!

Howler monkeys – Federico and Emiliano

Federico free at last and images of his rehabilitation

Federico was severely injured when he was hit by a car in February 2019. He was rushed to our veterinary clinic where he was throughly assessed by Dr. Francisco Sánchez Murillo. Federico was in such bad shape that we didn’t think he would make it. He had deep wounds on his legs, arms, hands, and face, as well as an exposed skull fracture which could easily be seen on the x-ray. In total, Federico had 11 lacerations across his entire body.  His leg was extremely damaged with torn and necrotic muscle that needed to be sutured. With all these wounds, and the head injury, Federico had a very bad prognosis and we didn’t expect him to survive the night.

Within a few days, Federico started to improve a lot. The deep cuts on his face healed quickly and even the his severely damaged leg started to heal with the help of a honey bandage, although it did take several weeks to heal completely. Because of the injury to the muscle in his leg, Federico also needed several weeks of rehabilitation time in one of our large outdoor enclosures.

Emiliano climbing to freedom

Emiliano was rescued after he was attacked by dogs. Thankfully his wounds were not very deep and he only needed to stay with us for a few weeks while the bite wounds healed. We were very happy to release him immediately after his injuries healed as it is important to us to get each animal back to their forest home as quickly as possible. Attacks by domestic pets are common when howlers are forced to travel on the ground due to deforestation. Several of the infants currently in our care were orphaned when their mothers were attacked and killed by dogs.

Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupines – Fluffy and Lulo

Fluffy and Lulo have been with us since they were infants when they were found alone without their mothers and taken by well-meaning residents. It is impossible to know if their mothers were both killed elsewhere, they abandoned the infants, or if they were just feeding in nearby trees and planning to return later. Sadly, we could not find their mothers. Fluffy was a newborn when she was found and had no spines yet which is why we called her Fluffy! Lulo was found about a month later and is a few weeks older than Fluffy and is the larger of the two. This species of porcupine can be found from Mexico to Panama and are an arboreal species that are nocturnal frugivorous (fruit-eaters) and folivorous (leaf-eaters). Their known predators are ocelots and boas, but their biggest threat is habitat loss due to human development.

Pacific Screech Owls – North and Ian

Both owls were rescued when they were just infants. Ian was found on the ground with a few small puncture wounds on his wing leading us to believe that the nest had been attacked by a predator. Thankfully his injuries were not severe, but he was too young to be on his own as he had no flight feathers and could barely stand or perch when he arrived. North was also found on the ground after her fell from the nest. Both were very young and required special care including being hand-fed by our staff and volunteers several times a day. Our veterinarian designed and build a special perch so the two could practice their balancing skills and build muscle strength and within a few weeks they were ready to start flying. Once they were moved into our flight enclosure, North and Ian really started to thrive. Although they were not very active during the day, we placed a camera trap inside the enclosure to see them flying at night. It was a great joy to see them take their first real flights after they were released. Ian flew far away and then started calling for North to join him!

Variegated Squirrels – Cailan and Adrian

Cailan and Adrian were both infants when they were rescued. Cailan was found alone and Adrian fell from the nest and was brought to us by a local resident. Our rescue centre is overflowing with infant squirrels. The majority of them were rescued by well-meaning residents who made the assumption that the infant had been abandoned and needed help. In fact, most of the time the infant has simply fallen from the tree and the mother will come and collect the baby. If you do find an infant squirrel, please do not remove it from its habitat. Simply wait quietly and watch from a distance for the mother to return. If you have any questions or if you think the infant might be in danger or injured, please call our wildlife emergency hotline 8824 3323. For more information on what to do if you find infant wildlife please visit our website:

Barn Owl – Tyto

This gorgeous barn owl was rescued after he flew into a window on the 7th floor of a building in Tamarindo. Tyto was unable to fly and was stuck there for several days, becoming very skinny and malnourished. Tyto required immediate medical attention from our veterinarian and several weeks of good food and time to practice flying before he was ready to be released. We took him in a forested area far from humans and buildings and we were very excited to see him back in the trees, in his natural habitat.

Collared Acari – Rafael

Rafael hit a window and need some time to recover inside our veterinary clinic. Thankfully Rafael didn’t have any serious injures and was ready to quickly be released back into the forest.

Our mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release and our hope is that every animal that needs our help can one day be returned to their forest home where they belong. Congratulations to the entire Refuge for Wildlife team for a job well done and all a special thank you to all our supporters who made this incredible day possible.


Free At Last! Orphaned Howlers Released!

After years of rehabilitation and care, Mango, Ana and Stan have returned to the forest. It was an emotional day as the Refuge staff watched the howler monkeys climb out of their enclosure and into the surrounding treetops!

Although these monkeys had a wide variety of enrichment items (including tree branches and vines) inside their enclosures over the years, it has been a long time since they climbed a real tree! It was wonderful to watch as they took their first tentative steps outside the enclosure. It only took them a few minutes before they realized they were free at last and began energetically exploring their new home. They started by circling around the enclosure, slowly getting used to safe paths to move between the trees. After a few minutes they began climbing higher and jumping back and forth between the trees with confidence. They were visibly excited to have a wonderful new playground and were curious about everything, especially the abundance of yummy leafy snacks surrounding them!

Our release enclosure is temporarily located deep inside the heavily forested community of Pachamama in San Juanillo and is in an off-limits part of the grounds across a river.  Pachamama has been very kind to let us use their MINAE-approved land for releases and has even provided a Refuge trained and dedicated volunteer to prepare the twice-daily feedings that were required during the past month while the monkeys became accustomed to their new surroundings. The Refuge veterinarian visited several times a week to monitor the health of the monkeys and to ensure that they were fit for release.


Who Are The Monkeys?


Mango fell from a tree as an infant when he and his family were trying to cross the road. There was a gap in the trees and Mango jumped and missed, falling onto the road. He suffered from head trauma and required extensive medical care.  He was given his name because when he arrived he had mango all over his face.

Mango still has a “lazy” looking eye from the fall and tilts his head to see certain angles. This disability hasn’t stopped him from becoming the most powerful member of his family though! Mango is the absolute alpha of the group, having asserted his dominance when he was much younger. He was the first monkey in the juvenile nursery to start howling and with a lot of practice, he now has a very loud and long howl – louder than any other rescue at the Refuge!  Mango is the kind of leader that is very laid back and doesn’t have a problem letting Ana, the alpha female, lead the troop.


Ana is the bravest monkey of the group. She has consistently been the first of the monkeys to try new things and was the first to explore outside of the release enclosure. She climbed out of the release enclosure while the boys stayed inside! She has always shown confidence and never gets stressed when faced with new challenges. Because of this, we are sure that Ana will adjust to life in the wild very easily.

Ana lost her mother due to electrocution but thankfully did not have any injuries. From day one, she has been fiercely independent and never once wanted the attention of our human caregivers. Even as a young infant, Ana would climb to the very top of the howler nursery and play and explore without the need for any comfort items such as hot water bottles or teddy bears. She’s grown into a beautiful young adult and we’re very proud of her.


Stan is a submissive male who was a bit of a late bloomer because he was not properly socialized with other howlers when he was young. Stan was transferred to us from another center that was not registered to care for primates, and unfortunately, he had been humanized. He behaved like a pet and when he arrived he was an older juvenile which made rehabilitation much harder. It had been a challenge to teach him to behave more like a wild monkey because he saw humans as something to interact with.

In order to be eligible for release, Stan needed to show no signs of wanting human attention and thankfully he has passed this final test! Stan has now learned how to be a part of a howler troop and has perfected all the essential survival skills all our howlers learn at the Refuge. Stan is very strong, but because he has a submissive personality, he is very gentle with his family. Stan is a bit of a clown and loves to play and wrestle with Ana and Mango – he is always searching for something fun to do!

We are so thrilled that these 3 monkeys have confidently returned to the forest after many months of rehabilitation. We continued to provide food inside their enclosure for the first several days just in case the monkeys needed to take more time to adjust. Although the monkeys stayed within a kilometer of the enclosure for the first night, they did not return to their enclosure and have now moved further into the forest to start their new lives.

Electrocuted Howlers Released

It is rare that electrocuted howlers sustain only minor injuries. Thankfully, both Marta and Tamara were not seriously affected by unsafe power distribution. Both monkeys were released today, after only a few weeks of care. Marta was electrocuted in Santa Marta and Tamara was electrocuted in Tamarindo – both climbed onto uninsulated power lines, receiving a painful, but low voltage shock. Requiring only minor veterinary care and a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation, these monkeys were very lucky. Often electrocutions result in death, life-threatening injuries and long-term damage to internal organs.

Most of the howlers we rescue have been electrocuted. Installed with little regard to the safety of Costa Rican wildlife, uninsulated power distribution is all over the country; often with the bare cable running through wildlife habitat and locations close to wildlife reserves, like Nosara.

Approximately half of the howlers are killed immediately, or due to their severe injuries must be euthanized. Of the howlers that receive extensive treatment and care at the Refuge, only 30% will survive. The severity of injuries is dependent on several factors including the type of current, the voltage, environmental conditions, the path the electricity took through the body and whether or not the monkey is thrown from the cables/transformer or if their muscles contracted and gripped the live electrical equipment. The most common injuries are severe electrical burns, loss of limbs and critical internal organ damage.  The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía (MINAE – Environment Ministry) has listed the mantled howler monkey as an endangered species because of their susceptibility to electrocution.