Our Mission

The Toucan Rescue Ranch (TRR) mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release Costa Rica wildlife. TRR works with a model that focuses on conservation, education, and research to ensure a brighter tomorrow for Costa Rica wildlife.

Who is the Toucan Rescue Ranch

TRR emphases on the care, rehabilitation, and release of national wildlife. We receive and care for confiscated, sick, and injured animals from government agencies. The Toucan Rescue Ranch works closely with the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica (MINAE) who brings injured and displaced wildlife to the center. TRR provides sanctuary while giving treatment, rehabilitation, and when possible, release to their natural environment. We specialize in toucans, sloths, and owls, however, we have a large array of wildlife from weasels, porcupines, cats, kinkajous, parrots, and so forth.

Some History

The Toucan Rescue Ranch (TRR) was founded in 2004 by Leslie Howle and Jorge Murillo. The original intention of TRR was to rescue, rehabilitate, and release Costa Rica toucans. MINAE (wildlife governing agency) noticed the success TRR had with toucans and began bringing various bird species. In 2007, when a baby sloth given the name Millie arrived, TRR transitioned into a full-time, multi-species wildlife rescue facility that specialize in toucans, sloths, and owls. TRR receives, cares for, and releases a wide range of species.

TRR Goals

  • To establish a captive breeding program for all six species of Costa Rican toucans.
  • To accept, evaluate and treat rescued animals in need.
  • To rehabilitate and release injured wildlife back to its’ natural environment.
  • Provide educational programs, research sites, and facilities across Costa Rica.
  • Provide volunteer opportunities for national and international individuals.

Timeline & Milestones

The sloth release efforts have grown. TRR receives many orphaned sloths each year. Thanks to TRR’s continued partnership with Café Britt and The Sloth Institute, TRR can acquire tracking equipment for more sloth releases. This equipment enhances the Saving Sloths Together project and enables both institutions to monitor sloth release movements, activities, and intervene if sloths do not appear to be adjusting to life in the wild.


Our Team

Leslie Howle

Co-Founder and Director, Leslie grew up in Costa Rica. Her father was one of the first property developers on the Pacific coast, laying the foundation for ecotourism in the Nosara region. Many years later, back in the United States and working as an Occupational Therapist and Outdoor Adventure Ropes course entrepreneur, with her own growing collection of birds she traveled to the jungles of Peru to study wild macaws. This led her back to her roots in Costa Rica in pursuing her lifelong dream of operating a bird refuge center, for parrots and toucans. Later, the bed and breakfast was started as a guesthouse when friends stayed while visiting. Today, Leslie’s vision for a breeding and refuge for toucans has quickly grown into a fully functioning wildlife rescue center. Her care goes beyond toucans and now heals sloths, otters, owls, spider monkeys and much more!

Jorge Murillo

Co-Founder and native of Costa Rica, Jorge lived and worked in Texas, USA in a successful career with Continental Airlines. He was drawn back home after seeking land to start his own farm. While still working for Continental Airlines he met Leslie Howle. Later, Jorge and Leslie married where they founded the Toucan Rescue Ranch in 2004. After several years caring for solely birds he convinced Leslie to rescue the Ranch’s first sloth. That sloth grew up to be Millie and is what initially transformed the Ranch into a full wildlife rehabilitation center. Today, Jorge assists in providing enrichment for the various species under his and Leslie’s care and is even a licensed realtor.

Janet Sandi Carmiol

Janet is the Ranch’s onsite veterinarian. She obtained her DMV from Escuela de Medicina y Cirugía Veterinaria San Francisco de Asís in 2006. During her studies, she worked with Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary 2005-2006 and interned with the Dallas World Aquarium December 2006 (exotics). Janet interned with the Wimberley Veterinary Clinic in Texas in 2007. She opened her private veterinary clinic in Curridabat, San José in 2008, and became a consultant to the zoo in Playa Bonita, Moín, Limón (Paradero Ecotour) in 2008. At the Ranch she conducts examinations, medical logs, procedures and surgeries. She oversees the overall health of all of the animals in the Ranch’s clinic and property. Her role as a veterinarian has evolved into more management tasks since obtaining her MBA.

Carol Friesen

Carol has worked and volunteered all over the world including countries such as Malawi and Philippines. Carol came every Saturday for a few years helping the Toucan Rescue Ranch prepare the various diets for the rescued wildlife of TRR. Since her earlier years at the Ranch her position has evolved into an administrative role. Now she works at the Ranch part-time as the Business Administrator managing financials, assisting with technical work and conducting tours.

Ana María Villada Rosales

Ana María Villada Rosales is the Ranch’s resident and traveling Veterinarian. She graduated from Vet school from the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico and has a Master’s in Conservation Medicine from Murdoch University, Australia. She has worked at zoological collections in Mexico and rescue centers in Australia working mainly with wildlife since graduating University. She oversees the clinic and overall treatments of injured animals, also oversees the caretaking of the sloths and their advancements  within the sloth release program. When needed she travels between the Toucan Rescue Ranch’s Release Sites and headquarters for treatments and preventive medicine for the animals.

Zara Palmer

Zara Palmer is the Marketing Specialist at the Toucan Rescue Ranch. She was born and raised in Clark Fork, Idaho, USA. 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 the Toucan Rescue Ranch. She began helping TRR in 2013. Since then, her role has grown and she now manages the Adoption Program, social media, crowdfunding, the website, special events, and so on.

Ivette Sirias

Ivette oversees daily operations in the outdoor animal kitchen where she advises volunteers and interns on animals diets, food preparation, and general care. She is the reason we are able to keep hundreds of animal resident and patient animals happy and healthy. Ivette has proven to be a crucial role at TRR. She works effortlessly with experienced and inexperienced volunteers and is a working component to the success of the Toucan Rescue Ranch!

Storm Heaven

Storm was born in England but grew up in New Zealand where she studied Biology at Victoria University of Wellington and Animal Management at WelTec. She has a special interest in ornithology and is currently furthering her studies in Zoo Biology and Conservation at the University of Salford in the U.K. During her service at the Toucan Rescue Ranch she served as an Animal Specialist assisting with the clinic, animal welfare and husbandry as well as the Release and Education Program. Since enrolling in University she assists with virtual responsibilities such as product design, sales, web and graphic design.

Maria Andrea Molina

María is the General Manager and Human Resources at the Toucan Rescue Ranch. She was born in Colombia and moved to Costa Rica as a teenager. María has always loved traveling and being surrounded by nature, she studied Hotel Management and Tourism at Universidad Latina de Costa Rica in 2009. After spending some time living and working at Melbourne, Australia, she decided to come back to Costa Rica to continue her studies, she obtains her International MBA at Universidad Europea de Madrid and started to work on different hotels, restaurants and at the Universidad Latina as a Revenue Management Professor. Her role is to manage the daily work, staff and volunteers at TRR and Administrative tasks.

Daniel Quintanilla Mendoza

Daniel Quintanilla Mendoza is the Lead Tour Guide in the Toucan Rescue Ranch. He is a biologist focused on conservation and graduated from the Universidad Latina in Costa Rica. Daniel has been volunteering at TRR for almost 3 years and now as a staff member. His passion for the wildlife in Costa Rica and conservation has lead him to many volunteer programs in the country; including working with sea turtles in the Pacific and with high school students helping them in conservation and biology projects. Now he plans to travel the world spreading the word of conservation and helping other rescue centers.

Javier Tenorio

Javier Tenorio is the Toucan Rescue Ranch’s Biologist and educational guide. He graduated from Escuela de Ciencias Ambientales from Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica as Tropical Biologist and Natural Resource Manager, he has specialized in ornithology and animal behavior. He has worked all over Costa Rica in biological research. He is a passionate conservationist and environmental educator. He oversees the enrichment program and the animal welfare with the animal husbandry team. Javier also is a crucial component of the Education Program as one of TRRs educators teaching about conservation and wildlife in educational walks to the general public.

Don Hector Zuñiga Ramirez

Don Hector Ramirez was born and raised in Costa Rica. He grew up in San Josecito, Heredia where he developed a passion for agriculture and plants. In his own and other family gardens, he helped plant flowers. Jorge, Co-Founder, was looking for a person who could help with landscaping at TRR, and Don Hector was the perfect fit. He started at TRR several years ago helping clear and manage the yards, but then quickly moved to planting gardens and new plant life at TRR. He focuses on bringing native wildlife to the property by planting nectar rich plants and other plant life that encourages beautiful birds and insects all over Toucan Rescue Ranch. If you’ve visited and marveled at the beautiful landscaping, you can thank Don Hector for that!

Costa Rica Foundation Members

Costa Rican Foundation

  • Janet Sandi, Veterinarian & Manager of Toucan Rescue Ranch                              
  • Leslie Howle, President Member                                                                                 
  • Jorge Murillo, Co-Founder of Toucan Rescue Ranch                                                   
  • Manuel Vega, Accountant                                                                                            
  • Andres Chaves, Municipalidad Employee                                                                       

Costa Rican Foundation: 300667701803

U.S. Board of Directors

U.S. 501c3 Nonprofit Board Members: 

  • Leslie Howle, Co-Founder and Owner of Toucan Rescue Ranch                            
  • Cindy DiGesualdo,USDA Veterinarian                                                                                                            
  • Carol Friesen, Business Administrator of Toucan Rescue Ranch                               
  • Richard Henderson, Attorney                                                                                                 
  • Jerry Jennings, Owner of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens                                                
  • Jorge Murillo, Co-Founder and Owner of Toucan Rescue Ranch                            
  • Seymour Sohmer, Executive Director, Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Ph.D, FLS.            
  • Terrie Velasquez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Company Officers: Leslie Howle: Chair; Terrie Velasquez: Secretary; Vacant: Treasurer


  • The 4th Annual Sloth Ironman Games | Completed

    The Sloth Ironman Games is an annual event hosted by TRR to create an initiative for people to get involved with our sloth conservation efforts. The games are a sloth enrichment game series for four athlete sloths (slothletes). These games will consist of various challenges that the sloth need to complete. Progress will be shown after each challenge is completed.

    The champion will be announced on October 25. All donations for your favorite sloth athlete will benefit the Saving Sloths Together program.

  • TRR Share Your Shot Fundraiser | Completed

    The 1st Annual TRR Share Your Shot photo contest is an international photography contest. The contest is open to ALL ages and has one simple entry qualification: photos must be themed “ANIMALS AND WILDLIFE.” Any and all photos will be accepted that follow this theme. The inspiration behind this contest is to get outside, get creative, and to give everyone a chance to show off their talent while helping a great cause!

  • Call for Artists | Completed

    Within the next 2 weeks, TRR is seeking artists and people that like to get creative! This campaign is all about donating visual designs for our next CustomInk Fundraiser.

  • Saving Sloths Together Ongoing

    In 2017 Toucan Rescue Ranch and The Sloth Institute Costa Rica created the Saving Sloths Together (SST), a Costa Rica wide project seeking to provide greater opportunity for sloths in need. By combining each organization’s skills and knowledge we are able to improve the process of sloth rescue, rehabilitation and release in Costa Rica. This partnership utilizes scientific expertise, dedication, passion and decades of experience t o provide the very best program for every sloth needing help at gaining a second chance at a life in the wild.

  • The Sloth Classroom Enclosure | Completed

    Help us build a Sloth Classroom for the rescued high schooler sloths!

  • #PapayaisLife Ongoing Fund

    Please help us continue to expand and better our wildlife rescue facility! By donating you’re contributing monies to purchase medical supplies and various other needed materials for the ongoing needs of our animal patients and residents. Together we are making a difference.

  • Education Center | Completed

    The Toucan Rescue Ranch provides educational tours to the public as well as various workshops to MINAE officers, firemen and policemen. We also invite local schools for talks and invite vet and medical students for clinical hours and other educational courses. With the growth of our Education Program we need a facility that will allow us to comfortably operate this very important program.

  • Sloth Pre-Release Enclosure | Completed

    Why We Need YOU: Join the Toucan Rescue Ranch (TRR) in raising funds for our rescued adult and orphaned sloths! This fundraiser will allow us to build a pre-release enclosure for our Sloth Release Program at our Release Site in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica.

  • Emma’s New Playground | Completed

    Since Emma first came to the Ranch she has grown… a lot! The current enclosure she lives in does not suit her need to swim and run. She’s a very active animal who requires a lot of space to run and swim. A new enclosure for Emma would allow her to be herself at her fullest capacity.

  • Owl Mews Campaign | Completed

    The Toucan Rescue Ranch raised funds to help build mews (enclosures) for owls. We currently have seven species of owls: Mottled, Bare-Shanked Screech, Striped, Tropical Screech, Black and White, Spectacled and Pygmy owls.