Chelsea Harris

Chelsea Harris, CVM Class of 2025
Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center Externship

“Pura Vida” is translated to the good life, which is the phrase that the people of Costa Rica pride themselves on and exactly what this experience was. From the early mornings of giving baby Lui, the howler monkey, his medication to the late-night talks with people from around the world. This was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget. Having the privilege to work alongside a local veterinarian to explore the wonders of Costa Rica. The Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center is located in the Turrucares district of Alajuela which was just on the outskirts of San Jose.

When entering the facility, we were welcomed in full arms by the program coordinators and the other student volunteers. Palm trees all around, macaws cooing by the car upon entering, I finally made it to my destination. The entire facility was surrounded by native plants and even the occasional wild sloths and capuchin monkeys among the trees. They prided themselves in being able to live in nature instead of destroying it to make a home. The view was amazing at the entrance and all the way down to the hospital. The animal enclosures were filled with natural lighting and local plants to incorporate what life would be like for them once they were healed and strong enough to return to their natural habitats.

deer Los Paos

In the rescue center, the animal population consisted of numerous species including two and three toed sloths, red and blue macaws, parakeets, kinkajous, coatis, peccaries, white-tailed deer, capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, and my personal favorite the howler monkeys. Our work days would start off with feeding milk to the younger sloths, preparing fresh diets, cleaning enclosures, gathering fresh leaves, and attending to any medical issue that was at hand.

After chores were completed, we would take an injured sloth out to walk across a branch or perform hydrotherapy because she was partially paralyzed in her hind legs. Learning about how to care for the wildlife was a major portion of our job.  We were taught how to properly handle large macaws and check them for Knemidokoptes, which is a burrowing mite that was taught to me in my parasitology class.  

This was an experience that a frown was never witnessed on my face. The lifelong friends and mentors that I gained from this opportunity are missed dearly, although we remain in contact. There were so many topics that the doctor taught me whether it was about animal health, nutrition, anesthetics, or even life advice that will never be forgotten.

sloth calf chute