Tierra Hermosa - Alex Martinez' Wildlife Rescue Centre

Published: April 19th 2014
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Tierra Hermosa is the name of Alex Martinez' wildlife rescue centre in Sarapiqui where people bring sick and injured animals and birds to be nurtured lovingly back to health before hopefully being released back into the wild. It is up in the hilly countryside about a ten minute drive from Alex's B and B lodges Posandra Andrea Cristina.

Alex acquired the area of land as a monoculture of hearts of palm trees that had ceased being cut for harvesting of the hearts of palms and had become fully grown. Alex is gradually introducing a more mixed forest with varied levels of understory. he showed us an area he had planted up with just six years ago and the growth was phenomonal, some of the trees having reached about 8m tall already! He showed us the bark of the palm trees covered in toxic spines. Monkeys manage to negociate their way through via the massive leaves instead, but obviously the introduction of more varieties of trees will make it easier for them. We also see another tree with thicker, shorter spines called I think the Sun buck. This one has fruits that are poisonous to all except the parrots who take advantage of their exclusive feast. Iguanas really love the leaves of this tree.

We meet a few of the animals and birds currently being looked after at the centre. At the moment there's not many in and Alex crosses his fingers and smiles saying he hopes that things stay this way. An empty centre means animals and birds are safe and happy out in the wilds where they should be. First we meet a pretty young female spider monkey. She puts her paw out of the cage she's in to grab hold of Alex's hair to groom. She had lost her mother and was now sadly an orphan. I put out my hand for her to hold - she only has four fingers and no thumbs - her paw felt cool and leathery to the touch. She wound the end of her little tail around my arm. She took a great interest in Mile's camera microphone wind shield and tried to grab it off him. She was adorable. She is let out of the cage for a few hours in the evenings but always comes back. She isn't really able to look after herself yet and may find it difficult to be accepted by other spider monkeys in the wild. Alex will try to help her get used to fending for herself. At the moment though she just needs lots of love and attention.

We also see a nervous howler monkey, also orphaned, who had been stealing food from humans who had scolded and frightened him. When Alex put some food out for this little monkey you could see how wary he was, grabbing the food then quickly and furtively taking it away to eat. We also saw a mealy parrot and a white headed parrot being looked after. While we were there a previous resident flew in to say hello and pick up a bit of food. Once these birds are well enough to fly again, the cages are left open and the birds are free to come and go until they build up enough confidence to find a new home of their own in the countryside around the centre.

We met the new care taker and found out it was actually her first day on the job. We see inside the lovely wooden lodge building that Alex built. There is a balcony at the back with a stunning view into the valley below.

In the garden Alex is growing white pineapples, the original variety that is now being squeezed out of existence by the preferred mass cultivation variety. He encourages people to take some seed and grow on their own plants.

Walking back to meet the van we see so many more birds out in the wild: flying bananas (toucans!), mealy parrots (largest parrot species in Costa Rica), a tree creeper, a white crowned parrot, a grey cap flycatcher, a collared aracari (kind of toucanette - like a toucan but not a toucan!) and we watch some more Montezuma Orependulas (yellow tails) through the scope. They are all together in a tree with lots if their pendulous hanging nests. one male takes car of a group of females. We saw one guy doing this upside down spin around a branch with wings outstretche thing. I'm sure female yellow tails think it's dead sexy, but we just found it hilarious. Sometimes too many nests are built on one branch and the whole lot comes crashing down, baby chicks and all. A case of natural selection at work. There is a bird called the giant cow bird that sneakily deposits its eggs in the yellow tails hanging nests and leaves them to be taken care of just like cuckoos in Europe.

The van comes to pick us up and we have to leave Tierra Hermosa. What an amazing place to live and what a great thing Alex is doing for the wildlife. I always feel blessed to meet people who care so passionately about the world we share and really appreciate the great efforts lovely people like Alex Martinez put in to making it a better place.

Additional photos below
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