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Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release in Costa Rica

Help release rehabilitated wildlife back into their rightful home! Observe and monitor a variety of species in the rainforest and leave behind meaningful legacy for the forests of Costa Rica.

Sister site to the Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary, the Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release in Costa Rica project is the final stage of an animal's rehabilitation journey, helping those ready to re-enter the wild and do so with the best chance possible. From the sanctuary's inception, the goal was always to ensure that, wherever possible, wild animals can return to their rightful home. In the late 1990s, the project acquired two release sites and has confidently released tens of thousands of animals, including several globally threatened species such as black-crowned Central American squirrel monkeys and great curassows. Most notably, this project successfully released a large number of Geoffroy spider monkeys, the most endangered primates in Costa Rica, who have gone on to form three troops of over 140 monkeys!

This release site is home to 729 hectares of dry tropical forest, and here, you'll support critically endangered and rescued animals returning to the wild, including spider monkeys, howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys, peccaries, macaws, sloths, wild cats, and more! You'll be involved in collecting valuable data throughout the pre-release phase, helping to assess the readiness of these animals for their release, and continuing to monitor them post-release to ensure their future lone survival. You'll help care for the animals in the pre-and-soft-release areas, preparing their meals, replenishing feeding stations, creating environmental enrichment activities, and gathering natural foods, further developing their foraging skills.

Arguably, the most fulfilling thing you'll do in the depths of the rainforest is release animals once rescued from the grips of human-animal conflict and the illegal pet trade back into the wild. This is your chance to provide animals with a second chance at life and leave behind a meaningful legacy for the forests of Costa Rica.

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Lauren Mackinnon


Release & Post-monitoring
Release & Post-monitoring You’ll have the extraordinary opportunity to work alongside field experts, releasing critically endangered and rescued wildlife back into their natural habitat. This rewarding experience sees months, sometimes even years, of rehabilitation and rewilding come to fruition, but the road to freedom doesn’t end here. You’ll help with post-monitoring of many released animals, ensuring they are adapting well to their new environment, foraging the right foods, and exhibiting natural behaviours – enjoying their freedom as they should!
Behavioural Data Collection & Analysis
Behavioural Data Collection & Analysis Helping with the collection of data during the pre-release process is extremely important. This data plays a pivotal role in assessing the readiness and fitness of the animals for their release back into the wild. You’ll look for signs of ill health, alongside meticulously tracking the amount of food they consume and whether they are exhibiting natural behaviours. You’ll learn from field experts what behaviours are typical for certain species and how to interpret and monitor the data, ensuring the animals are progressing towards their release date.
Wild Food Foraging & Feeding
Wild Food Foraging & Feeding After completing their rehabilitation at the sanctuary, the animals embark on a journey to their release site, where they stay in pre-release enclosures for approximately three months. During this time, they are still provided food and exposed to more natural foods they will encounter in the wild. As a volunteer, you’ll learn to identify and forage these foods before placing them around the pre-release enclosures. You'll also regularly replenish their feeding stations where observations take place, helping to ensure that they are healthy and ready for their new lives in the wild!
Animal Enrichment
Animal Enrichment Enrichment is vital for animals undergoing rehabilitation for a number of reasons. Most importantly, for animals being reintroduced to the wild, enrichment allows them to develop their natural behaviours, keeps them mentally and physically fit, and exposes them to sights, sounds, smells, and challenges that will likely present themselves in the ever-changing wild environment. You'll help design and create engaging enrichment for animals in the pre-release stage, helping them progress towards successful integration into their natural habitat!
Free Time
Free Time You'll have two days off each week to explore the stunning beauty of Costa Rica. During your free time, you'll have the opportunity to embark on adventures throughout this incredible country. The in-country team are more than happy to provide recommendations for exciting activities, such as visiting stunning beaches, going on exhilarating hikes, visiting volcanoes, zip-lining across ravines, and so much more. These days off not only allow you to rejuvenate but also offer you a chance to immerse yourself in the diverse and captivating landscapes that Costa Rica has to offer.


The following is an example itinerary of a 16-night stay, though longer durations are also available. As the project is based at an active release site, itineraries and all volunteer activities are subject to change depending on the needs of the project and the animals present when you visit.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins: Once you arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport, a designated driver will be waiting to take you to the Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary, where you'll spend your first night. This is a great opportunity to take a moment to unwind and relax after your long journey and ensure that you are refreshed and ready for your early pick-up the following day!
Day 2 - Transfer to Bosque Escondido: A project representative will transfer you to the release site, which will take approximately 3.5 hours. Once at the release site, you will settle into your accommodation and spend the rest of the day getting to know the other volunteers and project staff. You'll also have some free time to relax before your first day of meeting the wildlife you'll help to release!
Day 3 - 15 - Project Days: These are your project days; get stuck in learning the ropes of what it takes to rehabilitate and release animals back into the wild. From the release and monitoring of wildlife to foraging for wild foods and creating engaging enrichment for the animals in pre-release, you’ll take part in all the rewarding activities that help wildlife on their way home. Volunteers have two days off per week, so there is plenty of time to explore what Costa Rica has to offer. Whether your preference is relaxation or adventure, you’ll be spoilt for choice with free time activities!
Day 16 - Transfer Day: Sadly, today marks the end of your volunteering journey at the release site. Say your goodbyes to fellow volunteers, staff, and the animals before transferring back to the Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary, where you'll stay for the night. Leave with a sense of pride, knowing your contribution has helped wildlife find their way home!
Day 17 - Departure Day: Today, a driver will take you back to the airport to catch your return flight or continue your onward travel plans.

Durations & Prices

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days before your start date. (All prices listed are inclusive of the $245 deposit.)

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You will be staying in the volunteer house, where rooms are allocated on a triple-share basis. The accommodation offers all the amenities for a comfortable stay, including linens and free Wi-Fi. Additionally, there are shared bathrooms with western-style toilets and warm showers, a kitchen, laundry facilities, and a common area for socialising with other volunteers. You can also take part in after-hours activities such as game and movie nights, conservation talks, and more.

Meals & Beverages

Three meals per day are provided, which will be cooked by the field staff, except on Sundays when volunteers prepare their own meals with the provided ingredients or head into town for a meal out. The meals provided will include a mix of both Western-style and local dishes. For breakfast, you can expect options such as pancakes with fresh fruit, empanadas with spiced beans, or oatmeal with fruit/eggs. Typical lunches and dinners may include spaghetti with salad, grilled chicken with rice and vegetables, barbecued ribs, cassava chips, rice and vegetable dishes, burgers with fries and salad, and more. If you have any dietary requirements, please inform the travel team well in advance of your stay.

Project Details

When is the best time to volunteer?

As this project is based at an active release site with new animals arriving regularly and others still undergoing lengthy rehabilitation, there are animals here year-round, meaning there is no best time to volunteer regarding wildlife. The weather, however, can impact some people’s decisions, and there are two distinct seasons which are explained in more detail below:

December - April: These months are known as the dry season, which is usually the most popular with tourists due to less rainfall and increased wildlife visibility. 

May - November: While considered the rainy season, these months are still warm, and the rain typically falls in the afternoons or evenings. The forests are also at their most full during this period.

Average Monthly Weather in San Jose, Costa Rica

Getting There

You will need to fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) on your project start date. A driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to the Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary, where you'll spend your first night. The following morning, you will transfer by private vehicle to the project site, which will take approximately 3.5 hours. Please note: the departure is this process in reverse, and you should book onward or return flights on day 17. 

If you will already be in San Jose on your start date, we can arrange for you to be collected from a hotel close to the airport.

Visa Requirements

Most nationalities, including British and American citizens, do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica and will be granted entry for up to 180 days on arrival. You will, however, need to provide evidence of onward travel plans such as a flight ticket or bus ticket exiting the country. As entry requirements can change, we recommend checking with your local embassy regarding visa requirements prior to travel.

Fitness & Skills

You don't need any specific skills to join this project. However, volunteers must have a good level of fitness to comfortably participate as there is a lot of walking in rough terrain. As you'll be staying in the Costa Rican rainforest, you should also have a tolerance for various field conditions, including heat, humidity, and rain! The most important thing is that you arrive passionate about the project's mission and willing to engage in a range of activities. 


There are no specific vaccination or medical requirements needed to join this project. The vaccinations required will depend on the individual medical history of each volunteer. We recommend that you consult with your doctor/GP regarding your own vaccination needs as this will ensure you are protected and prepared to travel. In conjunction with this, we also recommend that you take a look at the Fit for Travel website for more helpful information on how best to prepare for your experience.

If travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is present, proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination is required by the Costa Rican government to enter the country.

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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Transfers to and from the release site
  • Use of the on-site laundry facilities
  • A donation to the project itself
  • Wi-Fi

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas