On a trip to Costa Rica I had an opportunity to visit the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, a “local enterprise wholly committed to providing wildlife rescue and rehabilitation for orphaned, injured and displaced animals indigenous to the southern zone of Costa Rica.” About 70 or so animals reside there including monkeys, wild cats, birds, and sloths.
On the day I visited I was lucky to get a one on one tour from Earl Crews, who founded the sanctuary in 1996. Earl and his wife Carol run the sanctuary and stress an important part of their work is being able to rehabilitate animals so that they can be released back into the wild whenever possible. This includes animals taken in who have been rescued from the exotic pet trade or freed from being exploited as attractions in hotels or clubs.
On my tour I was given a rare glimpse of Lily the Ocelot, she was in an enclosure off the tour circuit and off limits to the public. We kept a good distance and I relied on my zoom to snap a picture of her. Lily had been brought in as a baby “found” wandering alone at 6 days old. Earl explains in the video below that her mother was more than likely shot for her fur and Lily was doomed to be sold into the exotic pet market where in the US she would have fetched approximately US $10,000.00. Luckily for Lily she found her way to the sanctuary where she was given a chance to be free.
The video of Lily’s 2011 release
If you travel to Costa Rica be sure to visit the sanctuary for a tour, or for a longer period as a volunteer. While they receive help from US and Canadian Universities who send researchers, they still face financial threats during tough times, so if you are able donations are always needed to help them continue their work.
These cats are considered tolerant of changes to their environment however, like their US counterparts Ocelots in Costa Rica face similar challenges and threats like:
- Habitat loss and deforestation
- Human encroachment and urban areas
- Illegal trade in their pelts
- Illegal pet trade
- Retaliatory killings by farmers and ranchers for livestock loss