The first large enclosure contained Spider monkeys, white-faced Capuchin Monkeys and Howler monkeys, most of them have been rescued from either the community or have been found orphaned. There was a very sorrowful looking Capuchin who was sat by the fence, he was kept in a house for four years then kept tied to a tree by a chain around his neck.
The centre researches and visits other rescue centres to find ways to enrich the lives of rescued animals trying to undo any abnormal behaviour they exhibit. In some cases they have obviously been imprinted to humans and will never be able to be released. The enclosures are planted so that the big cats and the other residents have the opportunity to conceal themselves from the visitors.
Places like Las Pumas Rescue Centre have to weigh up the needs of the animals to the needs of the tourists that visit. If visitors can’t see the animal they won’t feel they have had a positive experience. If this happens there are a number of negative impact for the centre:
- No positive reviews online
- No word of mouth recommendations
- Visitors less inclined to spend money in the souvenir shop
- Visitors less open to possible additional adoption or donations to the centre.
Anyway back to the animals, we had the opportunity to sit or stand near the enclosure that held the big cats. Sometimes we had to be patient and wait until we saw movement before we could even see the cats as they were very good at concealing themselves, but every now and again we could get a clearer view. ML and I are both photographers, so for us the opportunity to try to photograph these beautiful animals was an amazing opportunity.
We were hampered by the enclosure structure, wire netting and planting but between us we got a few shots we were happy with. The fact that for most of our visit we were the only people there we were able to stand in the most advantageous places to try to get the best shots.
The Jaguar was beautiful, it was laid by the fence line, and to be this close was on one hand wonderful and on the other sad that it wasn’t out in the rainforest free. It was the most beautiful looking animal, yellow and tan fur with black rosette-shaped pattern. It eyes are golden orange and although it seems so peaceful laying there. I managed to get a shot of one of the other jaguars deep in the undergrowth yawning, the size of its mouth and the view it offered of its teeth reminds you just how efficient the Jaguar is at killing its prey.
Next was the Puma the second largest cat after the jaguar and on this occasion hidden at the back of its enclosure enjoying a patch of sunshine streaming through the plants. It had the palest moss green eyes and its fur was a combination of cream, cinnamon and silver grey (I have a very good telephoto lens), it doesn’t have any markings just changes of fur colour. Its upright ears were pricked and the fur around its mouth was white and its long white whiskers sprouted outwards quivering with the small changes of the air around it. I’ve read that its front legs are larger than their hind legs and adapted for grasping prey. It stayed hidden in the undergrowth the whole time ML and I were there so maybe next time we can get a closer view.
As we reluctantly left the Puma we came to an enclosure that appeared to be empty but the sign insisted there was an Ocelot in there somewhere. Finally looking up we saw an Ocelot sleeping in a hollowed out tree trunk, ML and I could only see its head but from what we could see its markings are similar to the Jaguar, its fur was cream and golden with black markings with a small pink nose and rounded ears.
Ocelots were killed for their fur, in one year (1970) alone 140,000 skins were imported into the USA. I’ve read that it takes 12.9 skins to make a fur coat.
We didn’t get to see the Margay which is another big cat, wherever it was in its enclosure it was extremely well hidden from view.
But what I did get to see is an animal I didn’t even know existed, it is called a Jaguarundi it is a small wild cat with short legs, an elongated body and a long tail. The two at the centre are a mixture of blackish to grey fur but some Jaguarundi have russet red to chestnut coloured fur. Both the cats have had a limb amputated so they are not able to be released, ML and I could only see one of them laying in dappled shade.
As we walked around between the enclosures are small streams and gorgeous verdant green plants some in flower which attract butterflies, birds, squirrels and lizards. Scattered around are quiet places where if you stop and stand still for a short while something will come along and if you’re careful and don’t move too quickly you can managed to get a photograph as a reminder.
Both ML and I spent an enormous amount of time looking at the enclosure that housed the parrots, macaws and toucans. All of them have been rescued from homes or from people selling them at the side of the road. Many were fed on human food, e.g. bread, dough, rice and beans and their wings have been damaged so they can’t fly far. They were beautiful to watch interacting with each other and there was at least one of them was calling out in Spanish, obviously one that has been taken from a home.
The otters were conspicuous by their absence unfortunately, I admit to being disappointed about this as I think they are one of the most beautiful animals to watch in the water. But as we are in Costa Rica for at least six months I may get the chance to see them yet. The penultimate animals we saw was a white-tailed deer and a collared peccary in the same enclosure. I am assuming that they are both orphans and have been brought up together as the peccary spent the whole time grooming the deer.
Then rather oddly there was a brightly painted enclosure full of straw and rabbits. Further investigation shows these are for sale to the local community, as part of the education program children are taught about the importance of protecting Costa Rica’s fauna, and the centre sells rabbits and guinea pigs to emphasize which animals make true domestic pets.
I really recommend this small centre for a visit, you have to be patient and quiet but you will be rewarded with at the very least, glimpses and if you are lucky full views of Costa Rica’s beautiful big cats.