Animal Care and Rehabilitation Volunteer

Refugio Herpetologico de Costa Rica - Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-609 Location: Santa Ana, Costa Rica Sector: Wildlife and the Environment Category: Animals and Wildlife Min Duration: 1 week Lodging: Host Family / Lodge Language: None Placement Fee: 50 USD
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Volunteer Job Description

The Wildlife Rescue Centre in Santa Ana receives and cares for animals seized by the Ministry of the Environment, in Costa Rica. The department lacks facilities to care for these animals and therefore, it depends on wild animal refuge centres to do so. Many of the animals seized have been victims of abuse, illegal captivity or poaching.

The Wildlife Rescue Centre reduces the need for animal shelters in the central valley. However, there are only 5 people working at the Centre, that has a capacity of caring for more than 40 animals. They require the help of animal care and rehabilitation volunteers to succeed in all their endeavours which include: returning the animals to their environment once healthy, improving the quality of life for animals that can not be released into their environment, reducing the number of species when necessary through spay and/or neutering, promoting educational seminars in regards to the care of animals and the protection of the environment.

Wildlife rescue center volunteers must have a passion for animals and nature but also volunteers must be able to deal with tough animal experiences, e.g. animals severally injured by people. Past experience is not required at this placement but a veterinarian background would increase the possibility of helping directly at their little clinic.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Animal Care

An animal care and rehabilitation volunteer will help in preparing and feeding food to the animals. Volunteers will also assist the staff in the process of reintegrating the animals into their natural habitat.

Public Service

Depending on the Spanish language skills of the animal care and rehabilitation volunteers, they may address the various needs of the students who visit the Centre. Be it discussing the impact animals have on the environment, the importance of protecting endangered species of animals, the necessity of neutering certain animals, the humane treatment of animals, the recognition that some animals should remain in their natural habitat, etc.

Maintenance of Trails

The centre is located in a private little forest with trails that go to each animal cage. Animal care and rehabilitation volunteers will help with the cleaning and reconstruction of the trails.


Every morning, volunteers will be asked to help with the cleaning of the cages; depending on the animal, the volunteers will do the tasks alone or with a staff member of the refuge.

Community Work

Wildlife rescue centre volunteers will work within the community by helping to conduct educational awareness seminars. Once a month the Centre also participates in the cleaning of the green areas and streets of San Ana.

Reception Assistant

Wildlife rescue centre volunteers will help park staff at the reception desk or by conducting tours, when necessary. The aim of the staff and volunteers to the public is to provide the best customer service, to meet the different needs for information about the centre that tourists require such as: rules and regulations while visiting the centre, attractions, rates, services and infrastructure.

Host Organization Details

Refugio Herpetologico de Costa Rica

The Herpetology Wildlife Rescue Center receives and cares for animals seized by MINAET (Ministerio del ambiente energia y telecomunicaciones). MINAET does a great job of saving animals from many direr situations. However, they lack the necessary facilities to care for them once captured. As a result, the institution is dependent on wild animal refuge centers. Many of the animals captured by MINAET, had been victims of abuse and/or were illegally caught by poachers. In addition, some of the animals who are cared for at the refuge have been rescued by the National Fire Service of Costa Rica.

There are only a few wild animal refuge centers in the greater San Jose area. Local zoos, are not able to receive these animals as they already operate at almost 100% capacity and therefore, do not have the required space or specialized management to shelter them. Therefore, when the Herpetology and Wildlife Rescue Center opened, it helped to alleviate this problem and reduced some of the need for animal shelters.

Ever since the Center started operating the animal refuge, it has been maintained as a sustainable economic project. They participate and/or create: environment educational talks, courses on wildlife management, national tree sales, create nature trails in hotels or private properties and keep inventory of the wildlife. Besides the previously mentioned projects, they also: advise other animal refuge shelters, offer an environment for fantastic wildlife photography and work with producers of various, "TV Specials" such as those done by the National Geographic Society.

The year 2008 was one of the toughest years in the history of the animal refuge center. They operated at almost 80% capacity and needed to expand rapidly, as more and more animals were brought daily to their center. Some of these animals could not be released back into the wild for various reasons, which resulted in an capacity problem. To help alleviate this situation it was decided to open the refuge to the public. Their location was set in Alto de las Palomas or the old road to Santa Ana.

At the present time they have: 24 species of snakes, (some venomous and some non-venomous), 3 species of Saurian, (reptiles), 3 species of primates, 2 species of crocodiles, 8 species of kelonido and much more.

The Center's primary job is the care and protection of wildlife. They also strive to educate the general public about the environment and the wildlife population.

Does this organization have any religious affiliations?

When They Were Founded

The Herpetology Refuge was established in 2003 by Mr. Rodolfo Vargas Leiton. Mr. Leiton had a great passion for wildlife since early childhood. At twelve years of age he obtained his first snake and instantly fell in love. Today, Mr. Leiton is the right person to call when a hotel, household or a job site finds an unexpected snake or any other wild animal.

The owner and founder, Mr. Leiton, has worked for many years managing the serpentarium, as well as, the frog farms and butterfly farms. Today, the projects have been vastly extended and the refuge cares for a wide variety of animal species. In 2009, Mr. Leiton was the winner of a scholarship for a professional training program with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

With the support of Dr. Brady Barr of the National Geographic Society, they were able to start projects on an even bigger scale. Dr. Barr cut the ceremonial ribbon on January 22, 2011 that marked the official opening of the, Refugio Herpetologico de Costa Rica.

How Are They Funded

The refuge project was started on a small scale and was privately funded by Mr. Leiton. Over time a group of Volunteers, Herpetologists and Biologists contributed their time and money thus enabling the project to expand to its present day capacity.

Donation Requests

The organization would appreciate any of the following equipment:

snake hooks protection gloves reptile sexing probes snake tongs

Placement Location Information

Santa Ana, Costa Rica

The Herpetological Refuge is located in Santa Ana. This refuge is small compared with other refuges. They work with wild animals but only have the necessary resources to keep these animals alive and safe. Only a few people work in this refuge and they are not enough to keep this place clean. Inside the refuge you can find a little river which is a little dirty, volunteers have to be involved in cleaning this river as well as keeping the animals safe.

In the reception they have a small section with few souvenirs and t-shirts, upstairs of the reception, volunteers will find a small dining room and a resting area.

The whole refuge is small, at the beginning they have the frogs and snakes areas, in front of the snakes they have two scarlet macaws, then white faced monkeys and turtles sections, after these sections there is a butterfly garden and then volunteers will see the river and a couple of owls. After these areas there is a big pond with fish and crocodiles, in front are the spider monkeys, then the parrots area and at the end the squirrel monkey.

Transfer From BaseCamp

Take a bus from the BaseCamp Center to San Jose downtown. Walk ten blocks right through the Central Avenue and at the end of it, walk an extra block and go right for three blocks where you will find the Santa Ana bus station. Once in Santa Ana, you have to get off the bus at EL Alto de las Palomas and walk two blocks to the left.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 22 KM
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 1:30

Weather in the Area

Santa Ana is one the warmest towns in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Temperatures range between 23-32C. The seasons in Santa Ana are the same as in the whole of Costa Rica, with both rainy and dry seasons. Santa Ana gets more sunshine during the rainy season than any other location in the Central Valley. Santa Ana is 900 meters above sea level but it often feels like you’re at the beach. As parts of Santa Ana are very mountainous, there is usually a nice breeze to cool things down a bit. If you plan to walk around town, make sure you bring your sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids and wear light clothes.

City/Village Description

Santa Ana, also known as "Valle del Sol" (Valley of the Sun), is a very enchanting town, where you can see how nature has blended perfectly with the residential and commercial aspects of a town that is growing rapidly. The town is not only warm due to its weather but also because of its unique and friendly people. This town will make you feel welcome and provide you with a great opportunity to see more of Costa Rica - surrounded by green mountains and so close to San Jose - Santa Ana is an oasis away from the city in an exquisite part of the country.

Santa Ana was traditionally known for its onions, clay pottery and horses. Onion production is being pushed out as real-estate prices rise and the farmland is converted to residential developments; but locals are still often called “Cebolleros” (Onions men).

There are several large equestrian centers (e.g. La Caraña), shops and animal supply stores. Following this cowboy theme, there are several Tico-style steakhouses and Tex-Mex restaurants. Even though the town is seeing explosive development and you can see luxury condos springing up all over the place; right next door to these you will still find the small frugal houses of residents that have lived there for decades or a farmer working his field. Even in the downtown area, it’s not uncommon to see houses with chickens, horses or rabbits in the back yard. In some neighborhoods you can still see, in the mornings, a handful of cattle going up to pasture.

Santa Ana is now one of the most exclusive places in Costa Rica. In the last ten years Santa Ana, due to a series of private investments in the area, has developed an atmosphere of exclusivity. Among the first important buildings in the area was the Free Trade Zone (tax free) "Forum" where initially Procter & Gamble settled. Today in the Free Zone other multinationals such as Hewlett-Packard, Western Union, Maersk Sealand, Cisco Systems and even the National Stock Exchange have established themselves at this site. "Forum" has created jobs for more than 7,000 people and "Forum 2" is now built about a mile away. The company, Oracle, was the first to settle in the second Forum. One of the focuses in development has been the road, "Santa Ana-Belen Radial" where they have recently installed four shopping centers along the route. The area is also known for its exciting nightlife.

Nearest Medical Clinic

Clinica Integral Santa Ana
Street 2 Santa Ana
Santa Ana
TEL 1: 2282-6890

Placement Address

Refugio Herpetologico de Costa Rica
Calle Vieja
Alto De Las Palomas
Santa Ana
Costa Rica

Accommodation and Meals

All of our volunteers begin their stay in Costa Rica at our BaseCamp Center in San Jose. Given that this placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minute commute from BaseCamp, volunteers here will be living with a host family after your orientation. Living with a host family is an awesome experience for a person looking to really experience Costa Rica and its culture.

The following information outlines a brief description of life at BaseCamp and also what someone can expect living with a host family in Costa Rica.

If you think that living with a host family is not for you, then this placement might not be the best fit with what you are looking for. You should try completing our application. It's totally free and will allow our team in Costa Rica to come up with a list of exactly which placements they would reccommend for you based on your personal preferences, background, skills and interests.

BaseCamp Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica
BaseCamp Costa Rica Address

Ave 16 St. 39&41
Los Yoses Sur
San Jose, Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica Contact Details

Tel: 506-8763-9595
Tel: 506-4030-1891
Mobile: 506-8763-9595

Take a Tour of BaseCamp
Accommodation in Costa Rica

All volunteers on our program in Costa Rica start out at our BaseCamp Center. The center is located in the capital city San Jose, and is a fantastic place from which to start your adventure.

Once volunteers have finished their orientation, where they live depends largely on the location of their placement. If their placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minutecommute from BaseCamp, then the only accommodation option may be host families or volunteer lodges in the national parks. However, if the placement is within a 1 hour 15 minute commute, then volunteers can choose whether or not to stay with us at BaseCamp or live with a host family.

BaseCamp Costa Rica is located in the province of San Jose at Los Yoses area. This is a fantastic area closed to the University of Costa Rica, San Pedro Mall, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, embassies and stores. Walking distance to down town and only 30 minutes away from the Juan Santamaria Airport.

BaseCamp has four bedrooms and three wash-rooms. The beds are mainly bunk beds in dormitory style rooms. Pillows, sheets and blankets are provided. There is a large common area where movies, books and games are available to our guests and there is a patio with a nice set up. This is an ideal setting for reading, studying Spanish or just some quiet relaxation.

BaseCamp is where volunteers first come when they arrive in Costa Rica and where they live for at least the duration of their orientation and training. The meal plan at the centre is based on a 14 day rotating schedule of a variety of traditional dishes from around the country. This meal plan allows volunteers to gain comfort and familiarity with both Costa Rican food and meal etiquette before making the transition to living with a host family.

Orientation and language training sessions take place in the BaseCamp Center. Each day of orientation blends some workshops and lessons with a mixture of outings to explore and become familiar with transportation and knowledge regarding the city.

Living With a Host Family in Costa Rica

Living with a host family in Costa Rica is a fantastic way to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation for the people and customs of the country. Each home-stay will provide a bed and three meals per day for our volunteers. The majority of host families offer private rooms with only one or two volunteers living with the family.

In the case of a volunteer lodge or ranger station (which is often the only option for placements within a National Park), volunteers will be living in dormitory type accommodation and meals will be provided in a mess hall or dining area.

Living with a host family can greatly enhance your performance at your placement. For one, it will have a huge influence on the speed with which you gain familiarity with the local language. This, along with your deeper understanding of cultural practices and beliefs that you are likely to gain in this environment, can go a long way to improving or strengthening your relationships with your team mates at work. Furthermore, a significant percentage of our host families are closely affiliated with the organizations with which our volunteers work. As such, even the evening meal or hanging out around the house can become valuable time during which volunteers can share their ideas and continue their support of their host organization.

All of this being said, living with a host family is not for everyone. It is very important for volunteers to honor the house rules in their host family and to be punctual. Also, depending on how remote your placement location, host families can be very rustic. Our staff in country can give you a better idea of what exactly you can expect from a host family in any particular community. However, in general, if these things sound like they might pose a challenge for you, we strongly suggest that you look at a placement within commuting distance from BaseCamp Costa Rica.

How the Program Works

Our program structure and costing is completely flexible which lets our volunteers ensure that they only pay for exactly the degree of support that they want.

Option 1 - Free Services

Some volunteers prefer to coordinate their own accommodation, meals and other support while overseas.

Anyone is welcome to use our volunteer placement search tool to help in finding a placement that is well suited to their interests. Once someone finds a placement that they wish to work with, they are welcome to make all the rest of their arrangmeents on their own.

As well, our team of staff overseas are often able to offer a few helpful pointers for volunteers 'doing it on their own'. Just send us an email with your questions and we will put you in touch with our team abroad. We only ask that you keep your requests fairly general, as this type of advice is exactly how our team earn their living. :)

Option 2 - Placement Support - 250 USD

Other volunteers would like assistance in selecting and confirming their placement, but they plan to manage their own accommodation and other expenses on their own.

These volunteers have the option of choosing to only have our assistance with selecting and confirming their placement. This option also includes ongoing placement support while abroad, so a volunteer would be able to ask our team for help if things at their placement were not working out.

In providing Placement Support, our team works with each volunteer through email, telephone and either Skype or Google Hangouts, to ensure that each volunteer has a clear understanding of their placement options. Our in-country staff will put together a custom list of placement options for each volunteer that they believe are the most appropriate matches with the volunteer's background, skills and interests. Then each volunteer can work with our team both in Canada and abroad to go through each of the options and narrow-down their selection.

Option 3 - Full Program Support

For most volunteers who are volunteering for less than a year, they are looking for an option that includes their accommodation, meals, airport reception, country and program orientation and placement support. This is what our Program Fees are designed for.

We are proud of how over the years we have ensured that our program fees are amoungst the most reasonable of any program in the world while we continue to provide exceptional volunteer support both at home and abroad.

Our Program Fees and listings of what these do and do not include are listed below:

Program Fees

Program Fees - Costa Rica

  Registration Fee
  1 Week
  2 Weeks
  3 Weeks
  4 Weeks
  5 Weeks
  6 Weeks
  7 Weeks
  8 Weeks
  Additional Weeks

Costa Rica wildlife and conservation placements require an additional $7 USD per day fee to cover park fees and accommodation. All program fees are listed in US Dollars.

What is Included
  • Pre-Departure support
  • Placement consulation
  • Airport reception & transfer
  • 2 Day orientation
  • Accommodation (BaseCamp or host family)
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Emergency & placement support

What is Not Included
    Before Departure
  • International flight
  • Travel medical insurance
  • Visa costs where required
  • Work permits where required
    While Overseas
  • Daily transportation to and from placement
  • Transport to airport on departure
  • Placement fees if requried

Placement Fee Alert

This placement has a placement fee!

In some cases, a placement will have to take on certain expenses in order to host a volunteer. For example, some medical internship placements take time away from paid medical staff to help with educational assistance. This has a cost that is compensated by a placement fee. In other cases, the organization may have to pay for additional equipment, energy consumption or other expense in order to put a volunteer to work.

In such cases, the organizaiton charges a fee. This fee is paid directly to the organization in cash on the ground.

One of the reasons that we keep this fee separate is so that volunteers who do not pay us for accommodation, meals etc (Program Fees), will see that they will still have to make this payment directly to the organizaiton upon their arrival.

The placement fee for this organization is: 50 USD

Program Dates

Our regularly scheduled program start dates are the first Friday of each month, every month of the year. We strongly recommend beginning your program on one of these dates as this will allow you to go through our orientation alongside other international volunteers.

If you would prefer, our application will also allow you to select a custom start date for your program. Keep in mind that there is an additional fee for a custom start date which ranges from 50 to 75 USD.

Feb 04, 2022 Mar 04, 2022 Apr 01, 2022
May 06, 2022 Jun 03, 2022 Jul 01, 2022
Aug 05, 2022 Sep 02, 2022 Oct 07, 2022
Nov 04, 2022 Dec 02, 2022 Jan 06, 2023
Feb 03, 2023 Mar 03, 2023 Apr 07, 2023
May 05, 2023 Jun 02, 2023 Jul 07, 2023
Aug 04, 2023 Sep 01, 2023 Oct 06, 2023
Nov 03, 2023 Dec 01, 2023 Jan 05, 2024


These dates are the day that volunteers should plan to arrive on the ground in country. We can accommodate arrivals in-country at any time day or night on these dates.

Give us a Call
Canada / USA 866-646-4693 (toll free)
UK 866-646-4693 (toll free)
Australia 866-646-4693 (toll free)
International 613-353-3000
Send us a Message