Kids Saving the Rainforest and Blue Banyan Inn: A Symbiotic Relationship

Blue Banyan Inn

Did you know that Kids Saving the Rainforest manages a Bed & Breakfast to help raise funds to save the rainforest and wildlife in the area? We realize that very few people do!  KSTR has been managing the Blue Banyan Inn (BBI) for over 3 years now!

BBI consists of 3 luxury cottages with a panoramic view of the mountains, a spectacular swimming pool, and a beautiful restaurant for daily breakfasts, just10 minutes from Maxi Pali, 15 minutes from Quepos and Marina and 30 minutes from the National Park/main beach.

Even more great news, BBI lets volunteers use the gorgeous swimming pool whenever they have down-time! Plus there is a great labyrinth and even a nursery that grows food for sloths.  Internet is great with a KSTR tower. BBI also lets KSTR use the kitchen and restaurant where the volunteers have a group lunch daily from 12 – 1:30 PM.

To make it even sweeter, BBI offers the B&B lobby as a greeting area for KSTR’s tours, a refreshment area after the tours, and has lent space for KSTR set up a store to raise money for the wildlife in their care. KSTR also has a volunteer center (that can sleep up to 18 people) on the property, for volunteers residing on the property.

You can’t ask for a more generous opportunity than that and KSTR is extremely grateful!

Blue Banyan Inn (BBI) is owned by a family who actually live on the property. So it is a win-win situation and Kids Saving the Rainforest wants to thank the Braman/Thompson family for their generosity. And a special thanks to Chip and Jennifer for having the KSTR Wildlife Sanctuary and Rescue Center location on their property. Learn more at bluebanyaninn.com

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Release of Squirrel Monkeys at KSTR

Margarita with Squirrel monkeys for articleBy Volunteer Margarita Samsonova

Kids Saving the Rainforest is in the process of establishing a reintroduction program for squirrel monkeys. Central American squirrel monkeys, also known as Saimiri oerstedi, are nearly extinct in Panama and are threatened in Costa Rica. There are only 4,000 individuals living in the wild, mostly in Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks, located on Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

The low population of Central American squirrel monkeys makes reintroduction programs of these species very important to sustain the population and help reproduction. In order for the release to be successful, the monkey’s behavior and its predator responses are tested to see what chance the animal has to survive in the wild. The project requires sustained long term observations and research to ensure a successful reintroduction into the wild.

One of our volunteers, Margarita Samsonova, is dedicating her time to observing candidates for release and has been testing their ability to respond to predators. The predator experiments were set on the monkeys six times using the scents of predators who are also rehabilitating in the rescue center. Scents of animals who hunt squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica such as dogs, white- faced monkeys, kinkajous and hawks were used along with their recorded vocalizations to test predator response. Pieces of cloth were placed in the predators’ enclosures overnight and then placed with the vocal recordings in the squirrel monkey enclosure the next day.

A few of the squirrel monkeys had previously been kept as pets, so it is crucial to observe their reaction and behavior to get an idea of whether the release would be successful or not. It was observed that only four of the six candidates displayed “appropriate” behavior and reacted to the predator sound and smell the same as a squirrel monkey in the wild would. Two of those candidates didn’t approach the cloth with scent, meaning that they sensed the predators’ presence and didn’t want to risk danger. The other two squirrel monkeys, after some time observing the cloth, did get the food from it but retreated to eat it, which could mean that they saw no presence of predators and decided to quickly grab the food—a normal behavior of squirrel monkeys in the wild. The remaining two individuals came right to the cloth once it was put out; they didn’t react to any vocalizations and didn’t move from the cloth to eat the food, which could mean that those animals were domesticated and may have lost their natural instinct.

The testing of behavior will continue until the beginning of April and the planned release is in mid-April. It is believed that pre-release monitoring and experiments will help to determine an estimation of which of the candidates would have high survival rates during reintroduction.

Tales from the Wildlife Rescue Center

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Raising and Preparing a Kinkayou for a Life in the Wild
By Pia Martin DVM, KSTR Wildlife Vet

Kinkayous (Potos flavus) and in Spanish “Martillas”, are medium size mammals (40-55cms long, weighing 2-3kg), brownish colored from the Procyonid family. This means they are nocturnal, live in pairs or by themselves and are arboreal and terrestrial; just like raccoons (Procyon lotor) and coatis (Nasua narica). However, they have unique characteristics that make them very special in the rainforest. For example: although they are categorized as carnivores, they do not eat meat. Their diet is basically fruits, flowers, and rarely they will eat a bird’s egg or an insect. They have a 5 inch tongue that helps them get nectar from flowers making them pollinators. Their ankles and wrists can rotate more than most mammals helping them climb up and down trees and walk in branches easily. They also have a long prehensile tail that can wrap itself around a branch and hold on to most of the animal’s weight so it can hang and reach for a fruit in a lower branch.

They are endangered due to the loss of their habitat (deforestation, forest fragmentation, civilization), they were hunted for food in the past and also to use their coat as the bristles in paintbrushes. They are also caught and sold in the pet trade. Here in Manuel Antonio, kinkajous are common but difficult to observe since they only come out at night and stay mainly in the trees. Their main threats are electrocutions, being hit by cars, and attacks by dogs.

Last year we received a very small, furry animal with a huge head; small eyes and long tail. It was a newborn kinkajou found by a woman in Parrita who was walking towards her house and spotted him on the ground by himself. She gave him to MINAET and they brought him to us.

Raising a kinkajou is definitely a extraordinary situation. At first we had to syringe feed him formula with probiotics, and he slept all day and all night. As he was growing we changed to a bottle and started introducing fruits and veggies, and put him into a playpen with stuffed animals, branches, ropes, and live trees.

Now, that he feeds on his own, is very active at night, and he is starting to search for his independence, we are beginning to do a soft release. Every night, the animal caretaker and me, open his cage and let him come out. He follows us into the jungle, just like he would follow his mom. We are training him to explore the world, search for his food using his sense of smell, hide from predators or unknown noises and get away from people. We are letting him climb up very tall trees and develop strong muscles in his hind legs, forearms, and tail so that he will feel secure moving in the canopy of the trees. Every time he achieves a little challenge we give him a prize- a small piece of grape or really sweet mango. It is difficult since we have to do it at night and we are always looking out for snakes and also afraid that he might run away before he is ready and that we will not be able to catch him.

But for the time being, he is still used to us so he is not leaving yet; but when the time comes and he knows how to find food, shelter, and company, he will leave and follow his instinct. We just need to prepare him well to survive and reproduce in the rainforest, just as he was meant to be; free and happy.