My husband Andy and I spent the morning touring the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, located just outside Dominical. Our friend and neighbor Mary is the tour guide on Tuesdays so we made sure to be there for the first tour of the morning, when the animals are known to be most active.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization specializing in the rescuing and rehabilitation of injured animals. They try to release as many animals as possible back into the wild, but they also provide a permanent sanctuary for those unable to be released. The $25 entrance fee for the tour goes toward providing the animals with a better life.
Wandering around you can feel in the atmosphere a deep, shared love for animals. And in return, the animals thrive in the loving environment. We weave through the little village and learn the name of each resident as we are told the history of how they each came to be here. Some animals have tragic stories of abuse and neglect, but they all share a happy ending of love and acceptance.
Our first stop is the macaw and parrot cage. Scarlet Macaws mate for life, and it is not uncommon for one to die soon after losing it's mate. There are two macaws at Alturas, one with a sad story of his tail feathers being forcibly removed by some jerk of a human. First lesson of the day: humans suck, animals rule. The two rescued macaws were put in a cage together and decided to accept the arranged marriage with a positive attitude, conveniently falling in love like two destined love birds:
Due to the abuse some of these animals have suffered in the past, they sometimes react aggressively when a male approaches their cage. So we found out that if you want an exciting animal tour, bring Andy with you! The two spider monkeys had a very strong, loud reaction to him approaching their cages, as their high-pitched, frantic, Earth-shattering shrieks startled everyone within 15 miles.
These rambunctious spider monkeys had recently figured out how to open their cages. Briefly escaping one day, they caused some chaos around campus, so we all noted when one discreetly slipped his fingers through the bars, trying to unlatch his cage again. We were very thankful, at that moment, for the new padlock added to his door.
Spider monkeys are incredibly strong, they tend to react aggressively and they do not seem to like humans. And I don't blame them. Here are some photos of one of the monkeys swinging back and forth in his cage, from his tail, trying to warn us all to not mess with him:
Another startling excitement came when we approached the cage of a reputed grumpy old man, a pizote as they are known locally, or a coatimundis as they are known officially. We've seen many of these adorable animals being fed on the side of the road by tourists, and they always appear docile and harmless.
But apparently they can be pretty violent with a nasty mean streak. As soon as Andy approached his cage he went nuts, shaking, trembling, screaming. He crossed his arms across his chest and his entire body shook with annoyance. If you look closely at this photo you may notice that it isn't a banana in his pocket and he does 'appear' happy to see us…although he definitely was not.
But some animals were too pura vida'd out to be bothered by our presence. A precious baby sloth refused to interrupt his lazy mid-morning nap in the sun:
And the white-faced capucin monkeys were somewhat mellow and only wanted to know if we were going to let them out to play:
Despite all the exotic animals being rescued at this sanctuary, it was a little handicapped raccoon who walked away with my heart. Who would have thought a girl from Oregon would move to Costa Rica and visit an exotic animal sanctuary brimming with macaws, parrots, sloths and monkeys, and walk away most impressed with a partially paralyzed raccoon named Tom. But you can't choose who you fall in love with.
It was Tom's spirit and attitude that had the strongest message of the day, and we can all learn a lot from this little guy and his adopted pizote companion. Since not everyone is able to visit this animal sanctuary in person (although you certainly should if you can), I will share with you 'Tom's 6 Life Lessons' so you may all benefit from his deep insight, simple knowledge, and his wise, old soul.
Life Lesson #1
When people are rudely staring at you, stick your tongue out at them, no matter your age:
Life Lesson #2
When life gets tough, hang on tighter:
Life Lesson #3
When people are taking nonstop pictures of you, don't be afraid to strike a pose, give them your sexy angle, and your best set of bedroom eyes:
Life Lesson #4
When life gets uncomfortable, don't dwell on it, just relax into the moment, because this too shall pass:
Life Lesson #5
Life is all about OneLove. When a different animal is added to your life, you do not judge them, you do not pick on them, you do not dwell on their differences. You accept and love them just as they are, claim them as your own, and then spend your days lounging in a tree with them by your side, fighting over the best nap spot, like a true married couple:
Life Lesson #6
And, most importantly folks, don't forget to keep calm, kick back and pura vida your way through life:
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.