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Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center

Quick Facts

  • Area : 50 acres
  • Telephone : 2433-8989
  • Hours : 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
  • Entrance fee : $30 adults; $15 child
  • Location : La Garita, Alajuela
  • Altitude : 2,664 feet above sea level

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center (formerly known as Zoo Ave) is committed to the welfare of animals. Founded in 1990, the center rehabilitates over 3,000 animals per year. Less than 2% of wildlife brought to the center stay in permanently in its care facilities.

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Visitors will encounter American crocodiles, white-tailed deer, snakes, peccaries, and all four species of native monkeys: squirrel, white-faced, howler and spider. Notable animal rescues include the refuge's two cougar sisters, Sol y Luna (Sun and Moon), whose mother was killed by poachers. Too young to fend for themselves, Sol y Luna almost ended up as a hotel attraction. Instead, a good Samaritan called the Ministry of Environment and Energy, and the cougar kittens made their way to Zoo Ave, where they now enjoy a healthy, active life in a large enclosure. 

Animals at Zoo Ave fall into two main categories: injured wildlife and illegal pets. When animals arrive at the refuge, they are evaluated by trained veterinary staff and given treatment. The ultimate goal is to rehabilitate the animals both physically and emotionally, for eventual release into the wild. Unfortunately, some animals are too badly injured or have spent a lifetime in captivity, and they will never be able to survive in the wild. These special animals become permanent Zoo Ave residents.

Zoo Ave and its parent foundation, the Nature Restoration Foundation sit on 50 acres of forested land just west of Alajuela. The Foundation and refuge are funded 100% by donations and the profits realized at Zoo Ave. In addition to rehabilitating wildlife, the Nature Restoration Foundation has pioneered national conservation and breeding programs, most notably for scarlet macaws, which have seen population declines throughout the country – an estimated 2,500 remain in Costa Rica. The Foundation's program is one of the world's most successful: in 2006, the project had a 70% success rate and by 2008, the number had climbed to 85%.

A paved walking trail loops through Zoo Ave's three acres, affording visitors an easy path to all animal areas. Self-guided tours begin with the resident macaws, where visitors can observe scarlet, hybrid, and Buffon's macaws perched on branches, squawking and acting socially, just as they would in the wild. Other free-roaming animals include peacocks, iguanas, and agouti. 

There are more than 250 species living at Zoo Ave, and approximately 120 of them are birds – after all, Zoo Ave translates as the "Bird Zoo." Among the refuge's winged residents are toucans, Montezuma oropendola, eagles, parrots and curassows. Additionally, Zoo Ave is one of only two facilities in the world to house the brilliantly colored resplendent quetzal. 


A small restaurant is open everyday during the dry season (December-April) and Wednesday-Sunday during the green season. The zoo also offers guarded parking for 75 vehicles. A small gift shop is located at the entrance to the refuge.


Temperatures in La Garita often reach 85º F, so make sure to wear lightweight clothing. A raincoat or umbrella is recommended for the rainy season months of May-November. 

Getting There: 

From the Juan Santamaria International Airport, take Route 1 west. When you reach the RECOPE oil reserves, follow signs to La Garita and Zoo Ave. The refuge is located on the road between Alajuela and Atenas.

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center in Pictures

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