Archive for November, 2010

True Colours of Rainsong

Author: Kristi

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.

Escapades of Cabuya

Author: Kristi

All of the volunteers of Rainsong Sanctuary decided to take the day off and head to Isla Tortuga. We had been drinking the night before so the boat ride to the island was horrendous. Once we got to shore we fled from the boat to the solid refuge of the beach. After we lounged around, tanned and frolicked in the water for a bit it was lunch time. ZumaTours made an amazing feast, some had tuna and others had chicken, served with potatoes and a light salad. It tasted amazing, we also had fresh fruit to finish. After lunch I was out baking under the sun when Sonya was about to run by, but she suddenly stopped at my feet, grabbed them and began to drag me to the water by my ankles. Everyone on the beach stopped to stare at the poor girl getting dragged to the water. Sonya pulled and pulled; she fell at one point but finally got me the water’s edge. I then jumped up, ran after and tackled her into the ocean. All in all it was a great day not spent at Rainsong.


The next day Claudia and I took up an offer made by some local friends to learn how to surf. We searched for the perfect location to learn, but the waves were just so big! Claudia and I dreaded getting out of the truck every time we stopped at a beach with waves that looked like they would kill us. We finally found a spot where the waves looked good enough for learners. Rafa took me out first, unfortunately by this time the waves were too small for surfing. We sat in the water with me trying to just balance on the board on my tummy.. this was a difficult task for me.. laugh if you wish. Then when it was time to come in and switch, a huge wave came and knocked me over into the sand. I could have built a sand castle with all the sand that wound up in my bikini. I was NOT impressed. Poor Claudia had a short turn in the water before we decided to head in.


The following day at Rainsong was a difficult. One of the baby raccoons, Bandido, was quite ill. She was just lying in his cage and lost his over-active personality. The owner of Rainsong, Mary, called the vet and asked what to give him. The vet suggested a medication that Mary happened to have in the fridge, unfortunately it had dried out. Mary had the GENIOUS idea of adding water to the dried up medication and it turned the medication to a paste. One of the other volunteers, Laura and myself just looked at each other in shock that Mary thought this would be a good plan. There is no disagreeing with Mary regrettably. We took the medication in a syringe and got Bandido to drink it. It was so thick she had a difficult time getting it down. We took her down to the “rancho” (food prep area) and discussed how brainless Mary was for what had just happened. All of a sudden Bandido started screaming. It was the most unnerving thing I have ever heard. Laura put Bandido on the ground thinking she had done something to hurt her. SHE continued to scream with her paws straight out in front of her. We rushed up to Mary’s room and asked her what we could do to help her. She was gasping for air. Mary quickly called the vet so she could hear the sounds of her screams. But by the time she got through, Bandido had already gasped her last breath. She died in Laura’s arms. I started to cry immediately and walked out of the room. I took the bullet and walked up to break the news to the rest of the volunteers up at the farm. Everyone was devastated that one of the most loved animals had passed away.



While I was making dinner one night I saw a pair of eyes glowing in the darkness of the night. Slightly worried I called one of the other volunteers down to the kitchen to investigate with me.  It was a strange creature that had lurked in the dark a few nights before, a tepizcuintle, who had returned this evening. One of the other volunteers had named this creature Inspector Squinty (long story). A tepizcuintle is the largest rodent in central America.
Later that night one of the volunteers was going to bed long after I had and saw something strange happen. I got up out of my hammock and just stood there. She asked me what I was doing and I then realized I was sleep walking. So I crawled back into my hammock and went back to sleep, I think I may have freaked the other volunteer out a bit!

The next night we all decided to stay in and watch a movie on my laptop. The laptop died at the perfect moment, because once we turned the light on there were ants swarming around our feet. I was the first to notice and I yelped out. Everyone jumped up on to the picnic table and just stared in awe of how many millions of little ants were all around us. A huge swarm had engulfed Jackie’s backpack that was sitting on a decrepit couch we all avoid sitting on (maybe for this very reason).  We took lots of pictures til they moved on and we decided to call it a night.
I was dreaming about the ant encounter and started sleep walking again. I hopped out of my bed with a loud scream and was in distress because I could not find a flashlight. In a fit of anger I tossed everything off my bedside table searching for my light. Also I did not want to move my feet because I was certain there were ants crawling everywhere. In the middle of this fit I realized that I was sleep walking and got back into bed.

The next night, it was storming and raining outside so we stayed in again. We had now figured out that the ants do not like light, therefore we kept the lights on while watching a movie. There was no “natural” excitement in the night, so Jackie found a way to amuse us all. She tied a fishing line to Kristi’s hammock and after all the lights were turned off she gave the line a tug. Kristi screamed and thought something was attacking her foot. She didn’t notice the line so we were able to do this a few more times before she figured it out. We all had a good laugh.

As the creatures of the night do not like rain, they seek shelter in our room. Poor Melanie woke up at 2am to find her bed and herself covered in ants. When she woke up in disgust she awoke Sonya, sleeping next to her. Sonya herself found a large quantity of ants covering her bed as well. Oddly enough, this is the one night I slept soundly through the commotion.

That morning we all woke up to the sound of Sonya’s shriek. She had been stung by a scorpion that had made a home her pant leg. She was brave and didn’t cry, but you could tell she was in a lot of pain. We all rushed to her aid and got her a cold compress and elevated her leg. The pain subsided after an hour or so but it was still quite tender for the rest of the day.