Travel in Costa Rica: Meet Sloths at the Toucan Rescue Ranch

Have you ever dreamed of having an up-close-and-personal encounter with Costa Rica’s wild and cuddly creatures? Luckily, a visit the Toucan Rescue Ranch is just what you’ve been wishing for! 😀 

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A bucket of baby sloths! What more could you ask for?! 😍

The Toucan Rescue Ranch in San Isidro, Costa Rica is a rescue and rehabilitation center for orphaned and injured wildlife. They initially worked with just toucans, but now help a wide variety of native birds and small mammals.

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anteater at the Toucan Rescue Ranch

While in Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to tour the ranch, which is only a short 20-minute bus ride from the city. I did make a reservation about one week in advance, since the small tour groups fill up fast. When I arrived at the ranch, the first thing I noticed was how clean, green, and spacious the enclosures looked. ❤

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toucan cages
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river otter enclosure
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owl enclosures

I got there around 8AM, which is when the staff feed the baby sloths their breakfast. I was able to see them syringe-feed milk to two baby sloths, which were absolutely adorable!

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The staff do not touch the sloths when they feed them, so that they do not become accustomed to humans. In the future, they hope to release them into the wild once they’ve become strong enough and learned all their survival skills.
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Milk, it does a body good. 😉

When the tour finally began around 9 AM, our guide Pedro talked with our group of six about the history of the Toucan Rescue Ranch, and the types of animals they care for here. The majority of the animals here have been confiscated for being illegally held as pets. They are often admitted suffering from serve malnutrition and distress. The ranch has an on-site veterinarian caring for these animals, as well as, volunteers who help these critical animals recover from their trauma.

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This otter orphan was found in a river, where children were throwing stones at him! 😢
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L: Pedro talking about the first sloth at the ranch; TR: picture of a toucan admitted with severe malnutrition, where its colorful bills appears pasty and pale; LR: picture of a toucan that was not up for release, but was bred, so that its offspring could be released back into the wild

After the talk, Pedro took us around the ranch to meet all the animals.

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orange-breasted falcon

We first started at the nursery, where we met more adorable baby sloths.DSC_4177The nursery is constructed using rocking chairs, which simulates the swaying motion of trees, and helps them to learn how to climb.DSC_4149I learned here that sloths love flowers, as well as green beans, and a variety of other plants and insects.

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baby sloth eating a flower petal

Here’s a short clip of baby sloths drinking milk and munching on flowers. 🙂

After the nursery we went to visit the birds, starting with the stunning Scarlet Macaws.DSC_4217These birds can live to be almost 80 years, and many owners don’t understand this lifelong commitment. As such, they are often surrendered to the center.DSC_4213From there we met a variety of their owls, including pygmy, screech and barn owls. Some of them have injured wings or vision impairment, which inhibits them from properly flying.

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barn owls
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pygmy owls are the smallest owls in Costa Rica

Next up we met the six different species of toucan at the ranch.

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chestnut-mandibled toucan

Fun fact: The ranch is actually one of the only rescue centers in the world to successfully raise and breed Keel-Billed toucans and Emerald Toucanets.

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keel-billed toucan

After the birds, we moved on to some of their more unusual residents. They currently have a baby anteater, Mexican porcupines, a river otter, and an oncilla.

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this anteater was climbing on the roof, licking ants out of the pipe drain 😛
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this little porcupine loves his peanuts ❤
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this little otter loves playing with the water hose
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Oncillas are the smallest cats in Costa Rica. This little girl was kept as a house pet, and can no longer fend for herself in the wild. Here at the center, they are feeding her a dead baby chick.

By far, the highlight for me though was meeting all the sloths. In total, the ranch has over 50 adult and baby sloths! Most of them are two-toed sloths, but they also have three-toed sloths. The latter being the character in the popular Disney movie, Zootopia.

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three-toed sloth
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Flash Slothmore, courtesy of Google images

Both two-toed and three-toed sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside-down in trees.

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What’s hanging? 😛

Since their diet is so low in calories, they also spend most of their day in energy-saving mode.

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two-toed sloth munching on carrots and green beans

Fun fact: Because they move so little, algae actually grows on their fur, which helps to camouflage them from predators.

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sloth taming his wild mane

While on the tour, I met this comical adult sloth, who actually has a little crush on the female sloth next to him. The two were even seen smooching during my visit. Ooh la la! ❤DSC_4258Anyway, after the tour, I paid for the whole experience, and also perused the on-site gift shop.storesloth Overall, I found the Toucan Rescue Ranch to be very fun and educational. They seem to have the animal’s best interest at heart, and have been successful in rehabilitating and releasing many animals back into the wild. As such, since they rely solely on donations, I was more than happy to contribute to this organization by taking a guided tour.DSC_4082In addition to tours, they also offer visitors the option to adopt, volunteer, or simply donate to their cause. Feel free to follow this link to find out more.DSC_4051

Cost: 35 USD for a two-hour guided tour

Getting there: 

Take the bus from downtown San Jose to San Isidro El General (por pista). The ride costs less than 1 USD and takes 20 minutes.

Anyway, that wraps up my backpacking experience in Central America. Thanks so much for following me along on this two-month venture! Stayed tuned for my next travel itinerary, as I discover the natural beauty of Canada. Until then!

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