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Published: June 23rd 2017
Geo: 9.93, -84.08
After picking up a rental car, we made our way to the San Jose airport in the off chance that DH's geographically challenged friend, Deb P, might actually get on the right plane. Somewhat surprisingly, she did end up in Costa Rica and once the stewardess took her name tag off and turned her over to us, we jumped in the car for the relatively short journey to the Toucan Ranch. It turned out to be a little longer than expected since the GPS (or MSD as DH refers to it...Marriage Saving Device) failed its first major test and left us lost in San Jose. With a little creativity we were able to track down our home for the night- a fairly tame start to our Costa Rican odyssey.
In the interest of being fair (and I'm all about being fair), Deb P decided that she didn't want any advance notice of the itinerary in the hope of being continually surprised as we travelled through the country. And imagine the size of your own surprise if, as part of your first stop, you were to pull into something called the Toucan Ranch and your first sight was that of
the long extinct Dodo bird- we simply didn't have the heart to tell her it was actually a Toucan (hence the name... Toucan Ranch??) but we were all quickly distracted by the star residents of the Ranch- the sloths.
We had stumbled on the Toucan Ranch almost by accident- our first plan (and bucket list item) was to visit the very famous (infamous?) Sloth Sanctuary that is on the Caribbean side of the country but, despite being featured on Animal Planet, it has decidedly mixed reviews these days. It seems to be a situation of people with good intentions dramatically losing their way and devolving to a roadside zoo- the deal breaker for us was a news item detailing an attempt by staff to help capture and smuggle rare pygmy sloths out of neighbouring Panama. We scrambled to find an alternative- partly for the rare up-close-and-personal viewing of critters that we might otherwise see only as distant blurry objects, but primarily because meeting people who tend to be so passionately dedicated to helping critters that would otherwise suffer and die is hugely rewarding. I have never understood our upside down recognition system in North America where vapid movie, sports, and
singing 'stars' are adored and showered with unearned money, but people who really spin the world, usually with no financial reward, are easily overlooked.
The owners of the Toucan Ranch, Leslie and Jorge, are certainly doing their part in life. Leslie decided some years ago to dedicate herself to rescuing and rehabing Toucans (in large measure, simply because no one else was doing it). Since this very caring couple seem incapable of saying no, various well meaning Costa Rican conservation authorities have loaded them up with a menagerie of local wildlife so there's a bit of a Noahs Ark feel to the place. In addition to Toucans and sloths, they host a number of owls, macaws, parrots, kinkajous, and even an otter, porcupine, and the nearly extinct oncilla among a host of other guests. Some will be released back into the wild but many have injuries that are too severe, or they have become too accustomed to humans. to be able to survive in the wild. Some were unfortunate amputees, some had burns, gashes, or breaks, and some were orphans- many were victims of human cruelty who were now benefiting from a remarkable demonstration of human kindness.
I'm sure the
birders in the crowd would see the very colourful and vocal Toucans as the stars of the show but it was the slow moving sloths that dominated our attention- these adorable critters would give puppies a run for their money. The girls even had the opportunity to cuddle a baby sloth that proved to be a bit of a ham. It was a great way to start our exploration of Costa Rica.
Leslie and Jorge are trying to raise funds to establish a clinic on site and I would encourage you to check out their site http://www.toucanrescueranch.org/ if you happen to have a little extra Xmas cash. After a good nights sleep (no danger of sleeping in here), it's time for us to leave and jump into the many adventures Costa Rica offers- and having ticked off the dodo bird, Deb P is on the hunt for the very rare Costan Rican unicorn.
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