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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Vet’s eye view - Sensory Experience in Nosara

Veterinarian Christine Nelson from Wisconsin spent nearly four years at our orangutan centre in West Borneo, treating and caring for the growing number of orangutans rescued from captivity or from the devastated rainforest. Now she has temporarily joined the team in Nosara to assist with treatments and surgeries on howler monkeys and other sick and injured wildlife. She is also looking into protocols at the clinic with a view to improving efficiency and bio-security.

Christine gives us her unique ‘vet’s eye view’ of living and working at the Refuge.

Sensory Experience in Nosara by Christine Nelson

A typical day at the Nosara Refuge for Wildlife starts very early and continues until nearly midnight. Caring for rescued infant Howler monkeys is a 24-hour gig.  Founder and Director Brenda Bombard can attest to that, as for years she has been providing around-the-clock care to anything and everything that may be seeking sanctuary. 

Brenda starts things off with the 3am feeding rounds. “It’s the quiet shift, but also my chance to take a look at each baby individually to keep tabs on its progress,” says Brenda. The Refuge now makes use of several staff and volunteers to get the job done. It is a team effort, and I am lucky enough to be one of the many people helping the monkeys and other animals at the center, at least temporarily. 

The Refuge is located on the top of a hill overlooking the beautiful beaches of Nosara, Costa Rica, in a converted bed and breakfast home, which houses animals and people alike. It is a definite experience for all of one’s senses. I am staying on site, and in the early or late hours the little barks and chirps of the infant monkeys awaiting milk can be heard from downstairs.  My body is now trained to start early, so I am usually awake before the resident adult howler monkeys start their morning chorus, and before the sunlight fills the glass door of my balcony. Often there is the rattle of plastic enrichment toys on the nursery structures, meaning that one of the more independent babies is climbing and playing. 

During my morning rounds checking clinic patients and the different groups of rehabilitant baby monkeys, the center has already become a bustling place where local staff and foreign volunteers are busy prepping food and leaves, cleaning cages or doing laundry.  Of course these tasks don’t involve the most enjoyable end of the sensory spectrum! At times either the resident guard dog or chicken will follow along to check the outdoor enclosures, and the surrounding area is often visited by a pair of magpie-jays, the circling vultures, and wild coati. Some mornings you can see and hear the trees shifting in the strong winds that stir up the dust of the dry season.

The rest of the day includes helping the staff veterinarian to do daily treatments on hospitalized and recovering patients, or examining monkeys and discussing plans for their nutrition or rehabilitation process. The less exciting but equally important work time is spent on researching how to improve protocols and efficiency. There is even the occasional pest control of residents that may harbor disease or harm the monkeys (scorpions, cockroaches, and mice, oh my!) The “typical” day is a bit of a misnomer as there are frequent rescues or emergencies, so it is more normal to expect a surprise. Many of the rescues require immediate medical assistance and need to be dealt with as soon as possible, sometimes with surgical intervention. 

By the late afternoon checks, things have quietened down again, but I am likely to hear the banter of the resident yellow-naped parrots who have picked up some phrases and sound like two old friends debating current affairs. When the animals are settled and the evening shift has taken control, I might be able to catch the gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific coast, and look forward to another full day tomorrow!