I have now been at Rainsong for over a month and I am totally disillusioned. Before arriving I had done some quick research on cheap places to volunteer in Costa Rica. Rainsong sounded right up my alley, small town in the jungle, work with animals, not to mention the price! I have been disturbed and disheartened by what I have found here.
I do not recommend this “sanctuary” whatsoever. The cages for the animals are far from sanitary, let alone large enough to hold the animals captive in them. It is a sentence worse than death for the poor animals here. The owner, Mary appears to want to run a petting zoo rather than a sanctuary. She has no plans on setting any of the animals free. She has no knowledge of what animal care really is and is uninformed about the dietary needs of the animals. In the time I have been here, two animals have died, and it is not an uncommon occurrence. Mary will sit in her room all day and watch TV and smoke weed while her volunteers, whom the locals call ” slaves”, are working their hardest to keep this place running.
Currently, Mary has three grown porcupines that are in perfect health and would be fine to be set out into the wild. She has an iguana, for only God knows what reason, it too could be set free. She has three howler monkeys that are consistently getting sick, I believe due to the incorrect diet and lack of cage sanitization. The local vet has told Mary on numerous occasions that things need to change around Rainsong or she will be shut down. Up until recently, Mary would refuse to allow us to sterilize the monkey’s bottles after each use and to replace their milks with fresh milk for the next feeding. At any point in time when you try to suggest anything to Mary she would lose it and start screaming at you.
Recently we had a baby howler monkey, sweet Evie, die in the middle of the night because Mary got high and forgot to check on her like she said she would. Evie died because of dehydration caused by Mary overheating the incubator. In my last blog I told the story of the baby raccoon that died from the improper medication Mary gave it. The vet in the area was appalled when she got all this information. After the vet came in to de-worm the animals she demanded that Mary adjust her routines. The cages need to be cleaned with Clorox at LEAST once a week and new animals must be quarantined with one specific volunteer tending to the one animal in case of cross contamination.
Mary is already trying to get out of these new rules. Shocked? I’m not.
We received a new baby howler monkey and Mary insisted that he get his recommended amount of liquids for the day. When the monkey refused to drink more Mary grabbed him from my arms and demanded we force feed him. The monkey was distressed (how could he not be) and bit Mary and she then threw him to the ground. This is not the only case where Mary demanded we force feed the monkeys at Rainsong. She will not try new tactics, or listen to other alternatives. The monkeys are already traumatized being abandoned by their family and then they are put into a hostile environment where they’re being forced to do something they’re resistant to.
Accomodation at Rainsong will be far from what you hope. The shack that Mary calls the farm is poorly built and terrifying to those less rustic. Most new volunteers take one look at the shack and say “f**k this”. I was brave and tried it out. It is not as bad as it looks but it is far from what Mary makes it out to be. If you do not bring a mosquito net expect to wake up covered in bites and possibly a swarm of army ants. She is always expecting couples to stay up at “Honeymoon hut” which is a smaller shack further into the jungle with no walls, no mattresses (unless you want to fight the rat family living in one), no gate to keep the goats out, no electricity and no running water. They would have to hike the 10mins down to the farm to use the kitchen and to go to the washroom.
There are many varying opinions about Mary and Rainsong out there and this is mine. I think that at some point Rainsong was started with the best intentions but got lost along the way. Unfortunately, the volunteers who come hoping to do some good work are supporting this sad situation so it will continue. I can see why Mary insists you pay your “donation” upfront as many will and do leave when they see what’s going on. I can only hope that eventually the vets or authorities will close this place down. Until then I urge you to volunteer elsewhere in Costa Rica.