Saving Costa Rica’s Endangered Wildlife: Inside Toucan Rescue Ranch
Updated: Aug 14
Discover the life-saving work of Toucan Rescue Ranch, a sanctuary in San Jose, Costa Rica dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured and displaced wildlife.
From your very first moments in Costa Rica’s jungles, you are immediately struck by the lush green plant life, the sounds of birds singing, and the distant chattering of monkeys. The air is thick with the scents of the rainforest, and it’s hard to imagine that amidst this paradise, there is wildlife in need of rescue and rehabilitation — but that's exactly what brought us to Toucan Rescue Ranch on the outskirts of the country’s capital of San Jose!
Rescuing the Most At-Risk
Founded in 2004 by Leslie Howle and Jorge Murillo, originally as solely a toucan rescue and rehabilitation centre, Toucan Rescue Ranch's mission is to give Costa Rican wildlife a fighting chance and provide sanctuary to the animals who cannot survive in the wild on their own.
The ranch works closely with the Ministry of Environment and Energy in Costa Rica (MINAE) to rescue wildlife that has been put in life-threatening situations due to deforestation, human encroachment on habitats, and the exotic pet trade.
This close partnership with MINAE allows the ranch to provide treatment and rehabilitation to a wide range of animals, with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into their natural habitat, if possible.
This not only helps to protect and preserve Costa Rica's biodiversity, but also allows visitors to observe these animals in their natural environment. The animals that are rescued or are brought to Toucan Rescue Ranch and are physically unable to return to the wild, are welcomed to their new home at Toucan Rescue Ranch.
Throughout our tour of the property, we were in awe of the variety of animals that have found a forever home at Toucan; from sloths to terra river otters, spider monkeys, four different species of toucans, owls, macaws, parrots, parakeets, raccoons, baby tamandua, and even opossums!
Our excellent tour coordinator, Andrea, explained the rescue and rehabilitation processes and introduced us to the animals that could not survive in the wild on their own for a number of reasons.
We felt privileged to see these beautiful creatures at a safe distance and learn about the often harrowing experiences of some of the animals that ended up at Toucan Rescue Ranch, including Lorita the Mealy Amazon parrot, Millie the two-fingered sloth, and Tabu the Oncilla.
"Within the sanctuary, we receive a lot of animals or have very hectic weeks where we sometimes receive a high number of animals per week,” explains Andre, one of their veterinarians on staff. “My job is to take care of them and to make sure that they are as healthy as they can possibly be, and just in general making sure that not only are they healthy, but happy, and able to express themselves and their natural behaviours to the best of their abilities."
What Makes TRR Different?
The Toucan Rescue Ranch has undergone some significant changes in recent years. One of the most notable additions is the Quarantine Suite, which allows new and possibly sick animals to be separated from healthy animals, avoiding contamination and ensuring that all receive the best possible care.
The ranch also has a research and conservation program, in which they conduct ethical scientific research on the wildlife under their care, and use this research to inform global conservation efforts and new policies. Additionally, a new Education Center is planned to be built at the release site this year, thanks to a generous grant, that will help educate visitors about the importance of conservation and the role of wildlife rehabilitation centres in preserving biodiversity.
In recent years, the Toucan Rescue Ranch has seen a significant increase in the number of animals they care for. In 2022, the ranch received more than 500 animals at its headquarters and release site locations. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of their staff and volunteers, the ranch was able to release 31% of these animals back into the wild! This is a significant accomplishment, especially considering the state in which many of these animals arrived.
Our visit to Toucan Rescue Ranch was an unforgettable experience! Not only did we get to see these amazing animals up close and learn about their stories, we also got to see the dedication and hard work that goes into rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing them back into the wild. Everyone here is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their work, and it was clear that their efforts were making a real difference in the lives of the animals in their care.
Toucan Rescue Ranch offers a variety of virtual, on-site, and private tours that centre around education, understanding, and animal safety and well-being. The tours are a distinctly hands-off experience, meaning that no visitor may hold, touch, or take selfies with the animals. They are wild animals, and deserve the respect of not being treated as pets (not to mention it's illegal to take a selfie with wild animals in Costa Rica.)
We strongly recommend a visit to Toucan Rescue Ranch, not only to gain knowledge about the critical work they do but also to submerge yourself in the magnificence of the Costa Rican jungle and all the incredible animals that inhabit it!