Saturday, March 20, 2010

Monkey Business

Being alone with the monkeys in the monkey house seemed like a good idea at the time! But there is a big difference between having one monkey on your head and having seven. Plus, by the time I was done my four hour volunteer shift, I was covered head to toe in monkey shit. I’ve never smelled better!
The Jaguar Animal Rescue Center is located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, just down the road from my house, in Cocles. The ten dollars for the one and a half hour tour goes 100% to the center. Besides, the tour is more than worth the cost. Wild cats, hawks, caimans, frogs, sloths, owls, dozens of snakes, and monkeys are just some of the animals you will see and learn about on the tour.
And you get to go into the monkey house. Ten bucks to play with the monkeys? It’s the best deal going!
After I went on a tour, I decided I wanted to volunteer. The job has been a little bit messier than I thought, but it’s also been loads of fun. We got a pair of one-month old monkeys in the other day. The monkeys like to hang out on our heads. Can you think of anything cuter than having a baby monkey in a sock on your head?
All eight of the monkeys have their own, unique personalities, along with names that the workers have given them. The two youngest (before the babies arrived) are Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie; they think they’re the stars of the Jaguar Rescue Center and act accordingly. Minimo is the brattiest and likes to chew on camera straps, break sunglasses, and suck on your hair. Congalita has a lady beard, and is the oldest and therefore the head of the pack. Being a lady with a beard is really only something a monkey can pull off!
My favourite animal at the center, though, is Sleepy the three-toed sloth. He has a perpetual smile on his face and loves everyone he sees. Sleepy will hang out on my stomach, like an infant, with his arms wrapped around me, looking up at me with that smile. How can my heart not melt?
Encar and Sandro, the owners, started the Jaguar Rescue Center in their home. The center has now expanded into a compound complete with frog pond, horse stables, barns, animal houses, terrariums, and gardens. The Jaguar Rescue Center relies entirely upon private donations and the money made from the tours. At the end of the day, this doesn’t amount to very much. Still, with the help of the workers and volunteers, the successful tours, and the hard work of Sandro and Encar, the center is thriving.
The tours start at 9:30am and 11:30am. Arrive about ten minutes prior to the start, and don’t be late or the tour will begin without you! And remember, hide your camera straps and your glasses, and watch out for Minimo! She’s like curious George, always getting into mischief.
Photo Credit: Chiao Mei Lin

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