Along a remote beach in the Golfo Dulce covering some 700 acres that borders Piedras Blancas National Park and 25-miles from Puerto Jiminez, lies a sanctuary for the wild. Carol Crews is a San Franciscan native who came to Costa Rica only to accidentally find her true calling in life. In 1996, she started the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a non-profit supported by researchers, conservationists and volunteers.
It began as a bird sanctuary and then expanded to include the spider monkey and several other animals. In 2003, it opened its doors to all creatures. Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is one of several wildlife refuges in the area. The large number of endangered species that inhabit this region, poaching and other practices that threaten the diverse exotic species created a real need for sanctuaries to care for these animals.
Orphaned and wounded animals are rescued and brought to the sanctuary to be nursed back to health and raised until they are able to survive on their own. If possible they are released back into the wild. There are approximately 71 animals living on the sanctuary. Residents include Scarlet Macaws, Red-lored Parrots, Mealy Parrots, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Black and White Owl, Spider Moneys, Mantles Howler Monkeys, Squirrel Moneys, Ocelots and more.
Animals are rehabilitated in a setting specifically designed to mimic their natural environment. Spider monkeys are the most common rescue. Many of the animals are victims of the illegal pet trade that is a widespread problem in Costa Rica. For the animals unable to be released back into the wild, they are held in containment areas. These areas are designed to mimic the natural habitat in order to encourage the natural behaviors of the species.
Primates are allowed to come and go as they please on the sanctuary, which is considered a controversial practice. Primates require a 22-mile range, a space much larger than any cage can provide. The sanctuary borders the national park and each day they venture into the park practicing foraging and other skills. They test the borders of the sanctuary, much like children, going a little further each day then they did the day before and then returning home.
Another sanctuary practice considered controversial, it recruits and employs former poachers for their deep knowledge. Many of these former hunters grew up in the rainforest and possess valuable knowledge into the forests and the native species. The Sanctuary believes that the knowledge and experience these hunters have when applied for good purposes is well-worth recruiting them to work for the “good guys.”
Crocodile Bay provides trips to this popular attraction. Carol and her staff at the sanctuary welcome visitors, and tours take approximately two hours. Here you can get an up close look at these exotic creatures while also learning about their natural habitats and needs. These tours support the second goal of the sanctuary, teaching people about conservation through education and community outreach. Ecotourism plays an important role in carrying out this goal.