Monthly Archives: June 2013

Long Island to Arenal: One Wildlife Refuge Helping Another

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Let me start this entry by whole-heartedly saying, Greetings from Costa Rica!

We here at The Springs Resort & Spa have decided to change our approach to this blog and  bring our past, present and future guests closer to our own little universe here at The Springs Resort & Spa.


Stopping to pose after a somewhat soggy birdwatching tour.

Last month, we had the pleasure of hosting a group of ten, mostly college-age, veterinary volunteers visiting Costa Rica from Long Island, New York’s Sweet Briar Nature Center. While here, they gave us some much-needed feedback on our two newest tours-in-the-making: the first being our Birdwatching Tour and the second, our Medicinal Plant Tour. 


With half the volunteers working on habitat landscaping, everyone else spent the day in the wood shop.


But, most importantly, on their last day they all got their hands dirty helping to landscape and build new enrichment toys for the animals of our Wildlife Refuge at Club Rio Outdoor Center.

Janine Bendicksen, Sweetbriar curator and volunteer group leader, first brought students to Costa Rica six years ago with the intention of working alongside the various wildlife refuges that pepper the countryside. While this type of volunteer trip might have been a first for us here at The Springs, it was a huge success and most certainly won’t be the last.


All nine volunteers plus our veterinary staff (and myself) proudly showing off the two boxes that were used for feeding for our adult puma, Guapo and enrichment play for our small group of Capuchin monkeys.

“I want to open their eyes up to a new world,” Bendicksen explained. “I want to give them a meaningful experience by taking them out of their comfort zone. As a regular tourist, you don’t have the opportunity to see as much as you would as an insider. Working with your staff at the Springs gave them that opportunity.” 

Half the group spent their last day at the resort building catwalks (yes, literal “cat” walks) and hanging swinging coconuts for our most energetic resident, Simba, the adolescent male puma. They also had the opportunity to work with our veterinary staff, Roberto and Victor, to prepare meals in our clinic for the jungle cats, toucans and sloths.


A hearty helping of “Two-Toed Sloth chow.”

Meanwhile, everyone else found themselves frantically measuring, hammering and operating an array of power tools in a frantic effort to finish a few, overly-complicated woodworking projects. Luckily, we were able to finish with the help of the hotel’s skilled carpenters.

Before the sun started to sink, we were able to build and implement an enormous scratching post for Simba along with two, very unique, wood and rope boxes — one of which was filled with plants and hung from a tree in the Capuchin monkey habitat. The other was filled with chicken and placed in the habitat of Guapo, our adult male Puma, as a sort of large-scale “Kong Toy”.


Simba doing what he does best: killing coconuts.

As exciting as everything was for us humans, the animals obviously enjoyed everything even more, and all positively responded to their new toys and altered habitats.

As an employee of almost a year, I can honestly say that working to benefit these animals was one of my most rewarding work experiences to date.

“I want kids to find something they are passionate about, and want them to learn to do good for others,” Bendicksen said. “Give back. Pay it forward. Because, isn’t that why we are all here?”

I speak for The Springs when I say it was our pleasure to share our hotel and get to know and work with everyone involved in this trip. We wish them all the best in their future travels and hope to see them soon.

Thanks to volunteer/photographer, Dery Keretic, I was able to piece together this small video of some animal curiosity that day. If you’ve visited us before, you’ll see some familiar faces here: