By our Executive Director and Founder, Leslie Howle
Hi Toucan Rescue Ranch family,
I would like to thank everyone who has continued to support us from afar. Some of you have called to check in with us to see how we are doing which is genuinely nice! Others have responded to our various campaigns such as the recent Call for Artists on MightyCause and T-shirt fundraiser with Custom Ink; while others have donated and done a symbolic adoption. Not to forget those who have donated to our #PapayaisLifeFund to help us with our operating costs, and those of you who have pitched in to help us pay for surgery for a rescued animal. It has been inspiring to see everyone come together and help us at Toucan Rescue Ranch. We thank all of you so very much. It always surprises me how many people have visited us or know us and the animals through social media and continue to support us.
It is an uncertain and difficult time, with lockdowns and the pandemic, social unrest, and an economic downturn. There have been a lot of changes for us at Toucan Rescue Ranch as well. Fortunately, Costa Rica has not been as affected by the virus, although numbers are increasing, it is nothing like other countries. The government has done a good job of restricting activities by closing restaurants, beaches, National Parks, and enforcing curfews. Having said that, we have been severely affected due to the rescue center’s dependence on tourism for over 50% of its expenses. With closed borders, there are no Educational Walks and no large groups of ecotourists helping us by touring our facility.
When the pandemic started in February, we were contacted by several government agencies asking us to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about how many animals we are caring for (around 350 individuals), to list supplies and foods needed, as well as a list of monthly expenses. The government said it was worried about the animals and was going to secure funding. However, months later we have yet to hear from anyone about possible government aid. With that being said, we are fortunate to be the recipient of food bank donations which has helped us cut some food costs. We have also been able to donate excess produce to other organizations and centers in need.
Amid all the normal-loud animal noises, there is a solemn silence in our Education Center, where our amazing tour guides and biologists were accompanied by wonderful folks from all over the world to learn, ask questions, and understand the value of conservation and Costa Rica wildlife. During this time of closure, it has really allowed us to step back and value this once fast-paced and evolving environment that ecotourism provided to Toucan Rescue Ranch. The wide variety of ages, ethnicities, professions, and passion for wildlife was exceptionally inspiring for us too. We really miss you.
We have had to take drastic measures to keep the center running, like so many other companies and jobs lost, we have had to layoff staff, halt various programs indefinitely, take pay cuts, arrange schedules differently, and survive with a skeleton crew. Most of our international volunteers have jumped on repatriation flights, and I certainly understand wanting to be with loved ones during this difficult time. With that said, we would like to thank the few that have stuck with us. We are so thankful for your dedication to the wildlife at Toucan Rescue Ranch, thank you.
There are days where I am hopeful this too shall pass. Then there are other days when I am hiding back tears, having to make difficult decisions that are affecting people’s lives.
There is a sign on our front gate that says: We continue to serve wildlife. Even though we are closed to visitors, this is so true. These past months we have received many injured animals and not simple cases. For example, we received a tamandua with multiple fractures (Loki who needed orthopedic surgery and is now back in the wild!), many electrocuted sloths, and all types of babies: sloths, owls, toucans, opossums, squirrels, and macaws – the list is huge!
Sometimes it feels like we have gone back in time when I was the only one taking care of the animals instead of the dynamic teams that we’ve grown into filled with veterinarians, interns, tour guides, business administrators, and biologists. The Toucan Rescue Ranch has grown into a large organization with two different operating sites, its Headquarters and Release Site in Sarapiqui. We are extremely successful in carrying out our mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wildlife. Toucan Rescue Ranch has seen the success of its Release Site, we have a dedicated and amazing veterinarian team, and I am so proud of what we have created. I genuinely believe we have the best animal care available to all species. I used to say, “I am willing to stay up all night taking care of baby sloths or a critical patient, I just need people to understand and support our work…”
That wish has come true. People know we are very dedicated and have helped us in so many ways, and we are incredibly grateful. But we still need your help to get through the next couple of months until tourism returns to Costa Rica. We are thinking this will be slow and we are making plans to ensure our survival into the new year.
So please keep us in your thoughts. Ways you can continue to promote our prosperity is by staying involved in our fundraising campaigns, share our work with a friend or family member, and take a virtual tour! We are being proactive and working on some exciting projects such as wildlife homeschool lessons and veterinary lectures – so stay tuned for new ways to help us.
Together we can keep the Toucan Rescue Ranch thriving. You are the ones who help us by providing the excellent quality of care we are internationally known for!
We will continue to stand by our motto: Rescue. Rehabilitate. Love. Liberate. Never forget you CAN save a sloth, toucan, owl, save wildlife!
The animals thank you as do I.