By Jenna Lewis
Situated in Canas, Guanacaste, Las Pumas Rescue Center has been an animal shelter home to injured or abandoned Costa Rican animals since the 1960s. Speckled with bright accent colors and animated animal murals, Las Pumas is mainly focused on rehabilitating Costa Rican jungle cats but also extends a helping hand to other animals, including different types of birds and monkeys.
Esther Garcia, chief biologist at Las Pumas, explains that the shelter is vastly different than a zoo, which is commonly misinterpreted. The main objective of a shelter is to protect animals that have been taken out of their natural habitat and rehabilitate them back to their natural habitat. Animals are brought into the shelter in a variety of situations including motor vehicle accidents and confiscation from people who keep them as pets. Last year, the shelter received 130 animals. Roughly 60 percent were released back into the wild, Garcia said.
Animals that are unable to return to their natural habitat are kept and treated properly at the shelter, open to the public for visits. The veterinarian, biologist and maintenance staff members oversee quarantined animals that are in rehabilitation. Today, Las Pumas is home to 50 parrots, 30 mammals and 40 quarantined animals, Garcia said.
Las Pumas also commits to education and community involvement. The Knowledge and Conservation of Wildlife Extension Program partners with institutions in surrounding communities to educate on the conservation of natural resources and wildlife through activities. In addition, the shelter strives to educate children on appropriate relationships with wildlife, teaching them that wild animals should remain in the wild and not be kept as pets.