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A Mom to Hundreds: The Story of an Unconventional Mother for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day celebrates all of the incredible women out there who bring life and love into this world. Today, we celebrate those incredible mother figures who have helped us to become the people we are. As I prepare to make a long-distance phone call to my superhero mom all the way in Idaho, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to a woman who redefines what it means to be a mom.

This mom stays up all hours of the night, year after year, to tend to her little ones. All of her children are biologically unlike her. Some have pig-like noses; others have spikey quills; some even have dinosaur-like characteristics like beaks and feathers! The little ones’ cribs are baskets, incubators, buckets and kennels. Her nursery is her quaint kitchen island, which she keeps stacked with feeding schedules, cups of milk and syringes. She lovingly gives food from a syringe to each furry or feathered child. After feeding her kids every four hours, she runs off to the clinic, where she looks over dozens of hurt and recovering individuals.

This person has devoted 15 years of her life to the rescued wildlife of Costa Rica, and she knows that she has big shoes to fill with each orphaned animal who walks through the Toucan Rescue Ranch’s gate. It’s no small task to replace the comforting natural figure that orphaned animals have so tragically lost: their mother.

Some of the orphans come in so weak that we are uncertain if they’ll make it through their first few nights. All are hurt and broken. The little ones must trade the snuggles of their mom, the melodic sound of the rainforest and the therapeutic sway of the canopy for a foreign plush toy and an alien human mother. However, with patience, compassion and a lot of love, this mom always manages to win the orphans’ trust and their hearts. To witness her devotion is truly a humbling experience for those involved with the rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release of orphaned animals.

Even after this mom has rehabilitated and then reintroduced dozens of animals to their wild homes, I see her cheer with joy every time an animal leaves her care. Each time she watches an animal go off into the wild, it’s as though she is watching her first. The ones whom she has helped are all now able to grow and to learn as free animals.

Now, feeling inspired by this unconventional mother of hundreds, what is the best definition of “mother?” A definition of mothering which resonates with me is: “to look after (someone) kindly and protectively; sometimes excessively so.”

After reading this definition, I first thought of the care from my own mom, but at the same time, I recognized the caring actions of the Toucan Rescue Ranch’s co-founder, Leslie Howle. She is a mom to hundreds, hundreds of animals: sloths, toucans, parrots, owls, porcupines, kinkajous, tamanduas, monkeys, and the list goes on. Time and time again, as she gives her own life to wildlife conservation, Leslie epitomizes the definition of what it means to be the kind and protective caregiver of life.

I am proud to know this unconventional and unique mom, and I can speak for all those who know and work with her that we all share the same pride. Happy Mother’s Day Leslie! On behalf of the Toucan Rescue Ranch, thank you for devoting your life to such a worthy cause. We are all so happy to fight alongside you on the mission of creating a brighter and healthier future for so many deserving lives.

Finally, a special mention to all the other incredible wildlife moms out there: Janet Sandi Carmiol, Denise Gillen, Sam Trull, Raquel Meneses, Ivette Sirias, and Ana María Villada Rosales. The animals of Toucan Rescue Ranch are all so lucky to have you as their veterinarians, biologists, and caretakers.  


This blog was written by Zara Palmer. Zara is the Marketing Specialist at the Toucan Rescue Ranch. She was born and raised in a small town in Northern Idaho. Zara graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from Lewis-Clark State College in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Her fondness of toucans and the rainforest brought her to Costa Rica. She started helping the Toucan Rescue Ranch in 2013 and her role has grown into managing various programs, social media, crowdfunding, the website, special events, and so on.

Edited by Grace Rosello

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