We asked our Release Site team to create an updated Release Site Survival Guide of what it takes to live and work at the Toucan Rescue Ranch Release Site. They all put their heads together and thought about what could be most helpful for the newcomers wanting to know what they’re getting themselves into and what items they should bring before they arrive.
As the release site pioneers once said, “something everyone must know before working at a wildlife release site is that it can be challenging. You’re in a remote area where your primary focus will always be the animals. It requires long days and a lot of motivation to see that the program is running effectively and efficiently.”
The 2022 intern team reflected on what it takes to live at the Release Site.
What Should I Pack for My Internship/Volunteering:
- Rain boots – there’s nothing worse than wet feet when you’re trying to work
- Hiking shoes – some sturdy, reliable hiking shows will make a great difference for you as you work
- Rain coat or poncho – essential
- Long socks – keep in mind you will be sweating and working hard, long socks will help protect you against bugs and rashes.
- Headlamp or flashlight – to walk to the clinic for night feedings or emergencies!
- At least two quick dry towels – you’ll want one for when the other’s in the wash
- A lot of bug spray, and if you’re allergic, coconut oil works well too
- AVOID cotton clothing – athletic, quick dry natural colored clothing is recommended (bright colors stress out birds)
- Bring clothes you don’t plan on bringing back because they’re going to get dirty and worn-out
- Even though you might not think you need it to bring “real people clothes” for the couple occasions you want to dress up for a night out
- This might seem obvious, but swimsuits!
- Baseball cap
- Water bottle(s)
- Any of your favorite snacks
- Your favorite type of shampoo and conditioner (all toiletries)
- Laptop, iPad/tablet, or Kindle (be sure to have it insured or on warranty because it’s a humid climate and things tend to stop working) so you have a way to entertain yourself
- With a good book, you will have enough free time to read the books you’ve been postponing
- Anti-itch cream
- A camera and a long lens for your camera if you have one. A tripod is always recommended for birding!
- Binoculars to admire the lovely wildlife you will be surrounded by
- Cash (colones) that you convert at the airport for the best exchange rate/most convenient (ATMs exist here, but you’d have to pay a taxi to get to
- Ear plugs because the Amazons and Macaws WILL wake you up at 5 am
- A spare battery pack in case we lose power
- SIM card for your phone (but we do have wifi onsite, and the service isn’t excellent anyway)
- Dehumidifiers for any important electronics that you may be bringing. Mold will grow on everything, even inside your camera lens, so stay vigilant!
- A portable handheld fan – not necessary, but definitely encouraged!
Release Site Reality Check: MYTH or FACT?
The release site is in the MIDDLE OF THE JUNGLE: Howler monkeys will be your next-door neighbors, macaws will fly overhead, wild toucans will sing in the afternoons, and mosquitos will be a more considerable nuisance than you’ll have ever experienced. The release site is in rural Costa Rica, where fragmented forest patches are adjacent to many “farm” agricultural land.
“You will NOT BE ABLE to easily leave the release site once you get there” indeed, transportation won’t be the easiest thing in the world. But the bus station is a 15-minute taxi ride away and can take you to San Jose or the beautiful Caribbean coast.
“You will have LIMITED ACCESS to the simple comforts of life” Because of our remote location, this statement holds! However, there is a small shop with essential toiletries and a small selection of snacks less than a 5-minute walk down the road, and the town center is a 20-minute taxi ride away where you can find pharmacies, supermarkets, and more places to buy any essential items you might need
“It either is VERY HOT, or it rains ALL THE TIME” Well—sort of. Especially during the rainy season, we get rain almost every single day. But we usually have beautiful sunny mornings, and luckily, the storm will typically come right after the work day’s end.
“There is NOTHING TO DO around the release site” You will have to be able to be good at entertaining yourself out here! A computer, iPad, Kindle, and journal are encouraged. But there are things to do around that you can take advantage of on your days off – wildlife tours, close-by waterfalls, restaurants, and even taking a walk in the jungle to swim in the river. Release Site interns tend to be like-minded people- it will be easy to get along, and we often have movie nights or game nights!
“You’ll be SO LONELY” It might be challenging to adjust to a new environment, and you will have a limited social life. But there are always three interns onsite, a handful of local volunteers, permanent staff, and a small window of opportunity between the birds screaming and the rain pouring where you can phone your family and friends back home. The intern house at headquarters is always open to stay at as well, and just a short 1-hour bus ride away if you’d like to get more involved with the whole TRR team!
“You’re going to have the EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME” Absolutely, undoubtedly, 100% yes. This internship is not for everyone. Nobody said wildlife rehabilitation was easy. But, it is EASILY one of the most rewarding feelings to be a caretaker for an orphan, sick, or injured animal and see it healthy enough to thrive back in the forest again.
A note from your Release Site Team:
It might be difficult to adapt at first, but we can promise you that you will have a tough time leaving by the end of your time volunteering or interning. We do not doubt that the Toucan Rescue Ranch Release Site people and animals will surely steal your heart, just like it did ours.
Magdalena, Sydney, Diana, and Tesa
A Glimpse into the Lives of Interns and Staff at the Release Site!
Meet our Release Site Supervisor!
Tesa Mendoza Blowey is the Release Site Supervisor and oversees the last stage of rehabilitation for many animals under our care. She studied Wildlife Conservation Biology at the University of California Davis, where she specialized in animal/human conflicts and wildlife management.