Field Study and Service-Learning MediaBlog

15 April, 2008

Cañas: Las Pumas Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Afternoon Nap
A Jaguar takes a nap during the hot Spring afternoon in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Although her cage contains a variety of native trees and plants, soft grass, scratching posts, climbing platforms, and scented bags of eucalyptus and vanilla oils, our guide says that she prefers to stay in the cool shade of her concrete-floored “bedroom.” Jaguars are the biggest predator-carnivores in the Neotropics, feeding on monkeys, birds, turtles, iguanas, and other larger mammals. They are active night and day, and are known to travel over 200-300km/day! In Costa Rica today, Jaguars are endangered of extinction due to hunting by farmers (to reduce cattle loss) and habitat loss from deforestation.

Not only Pumas are kept at Las Pumas Rescue Shelter
Las Pumas currently shelters five of the six endangered felines of Costa Rica, including the Margay (Leopardus wiedii), Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Puma (Puma concolor), and Jaguar (Panthera onca). They also provide safe housing for other animals such as the gray fox, racoon, white-faced monkey, white-tailed deer, orange chineed parakeet, keel-billed toucan, orange-fronted parakeet, red-lored parrot and scarlet macaw. The primary objective of Las Pumas is to rehabilitate and release animals back into conservation areas, but sometimes animals are kept at the shelter if they demonstrate a physical or emotional fragility.

Lilly Bodmer de Hagnauer, Founder of Las Pumas Rescue Shelter
Approximately 40 years ago, Mrs. Lilly Bodmer de Hagnauer began to care for injured and orphaned wild animals in Costa Rica. After a few years she had accumulated over 160 animals of 60 different species. To house the animals, she first constructed Hacienda La Pacifica, S.A., a small and private wildlife rehabilitation shelter in Cañas, Guanacaste. In 1985, she built an even larger facility, Las Pumas Rescue Shelter, which is still in use today, sheltering more than 80 individuals of 22 endangered species. Lilly died in 2001, but her Rescue Shelter continues to operate as part of the Arenal Tempisque Conservation Area (ACAT).

¿Cuál animal es la mejor mascota? (Which animal is the best pet?)
One-forth of all homes in Costa Rica keep a wild animal (birds, parakeets, reptiles, and even small cats!) as a pet, and every year 27,000-35,000 baby birds are poached for pet trade. Las Pumas Rescue Shelter takes in, recuperates and releases back into the wild animals that have been confiscated by the authorities or donated by local people once they become too difficult to look after. To reduce illegal pet trade in Costa Rica, the shelter also operates an environmental education program where children learn the role and importance of wild animals in their native ecosystems.

Employment and Volunteering Opportunities
Las Pumas Rescue Shelter currently offers employment to 10 local residents who live in the nearby Corobicí and Cañas communities. These local people learn about farm and wild animal management, tourist relations, construction and bricklaying. There is also a foreign volunteer exchange program at the shelter, where up to three volunteers can live at the station for up to six weeks, assisting in environmental education and animal care. A normal day at the shelter consists of breakfast at 5:00am, then work starting at 6:00am, which includes sweeping paths, preparing fruits, vegetables and meat for the animals to eat, doing ground maintenance, giving tours of the facility, assisting in animal rehabilitation care, and monitoring the activity and preparing daily logs of permanent animal residents.

Contributions Welcome
Las Pumas Rescue Shelter is sustained primarily on voluntary contributions and donations from institutes, companies, organizations and farms. To feed the animals, cows are also donated by Hacienda Montezuma in Cañas, and fruits veggies are donated by local markets. Over the last 10 years, the shelter has accumulated 67.4 million colones ($136,000) from contributions, but unfortunately they still are facing a 20.9 million colones ($42,000) deficit. To raise additional money, the shelter has increased their visibility by offering more tours and educational classes, obtaining national and international media coverage, exhibiting the shelter to nature photographers, and advertising in Costa Rican travel books. If you would like at make a contribution to Las Pumas Rescue Shelter, please contact

Author: Michelle Krieg