This is a true story.
It's an inspiring story that may bring you to tears, and is one of the most amazing travel experiences I've ever had. But most of all, this is a good lesson about how taking action - even when we think there's nothing we can do - that can make all the difference in the world.
We were leaving Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica several years ago, on our way back north to Guapiles for a quick overnight before we caught a flight to the Osa Peninsula. We'd had a great time getting to know new friends and more about the area. About thirty minutes north of Puerto Viejo in the tiny village of Penhurst, I spotted a bright yellow "Sloth Crossing' sign - how often do you see that? - and my husband pulled over so I could snap a pic. When I got out of the car, we noticed something moving in the yard next to a small house along the road.
A young spider monkey with a leather collar around her neck was chained to a tether. She saw me standing there before I saw her, and ran toward me. Just as she reached the end of her tether, her head snapped back, toppling her over backwards and onto her belly. She got up and stared at me, her eyes somehow pleading with me. I had no idea what to do. It was heartbreaking. I didn't want to trespass in someone's yard, but I knew from talking with the owners at the Jaguar Rescue Center, that it was illegal in Costa Rica to keep monkeys captive.
So I did the only thing I could think of. We jotted down the mile marker and noted the surroundings, and I took photos of her, promising her that I would try and help, feeling horrible at the thought of leaving her alone like this.
When we returned home a week later, I quickly emailed Sandro & Encar at the Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo, sending along the photos and location details of her illegal captivity. Weeks went by without a response. I was sure my email had been lost, or maybe there was nothing they could do.
Then one day several weeks later, I received an email from Sandro which I nearly deleted as it was written in Italian and ended up in my Junk file. I translated the email online and began to read. I couldn't believe what I read, through my tears.
She had been rescued!
The email was from Sandro, and he shared the touching story of their rescue. But that was only half the story. Here is his email to me. Though it was written in Italian and roughly translated online, this touching story had an even more amazing ending.
"This is Sandro, the companion of Encar.
I write this in Italian because the history of this story, of which you are partially protagonists, is wonderful and the stumbling blocks I would encounter by attempting to write in English, could make it more difficult for you to understand.
Approximately 2 months ago, Yury was brought to us, an adult Spider monkey whose owners did not want anymore. She is beautiful and sweet, but she is always very, very sad. We carried her to the Cerva, the reservoir of primary jungle (beyond 50 hectares) where the liberation of animals happens, which we take care of ourselves. We know that the reintroduction of primate adults can be a very difficult one, but we begin the reintroduction process. But the beautiful monkey Yury is always sad, as soon as she is fed, and she does not like to be separated from us, even for a moment. We do not understand this - the reason escapes us!
Then your email arrives, and we quickly leave to search for the monkey you wrote about. We find Molly in the zone of Penhurst where you have indicated to us. And here we find out something wonderful - we discover that Yury and Molly are sisters! They had lived a long time with each other until the ominous circumstances where capricious owners decided to separate them. When Molly was rescued and reintroduced to the Cerva, she and Yury embraced, crying from their happiness.
Now they pass the whole day grooming themselves and running after each other between the enormous trees of the reservoir.
Many thanks from all of us at the Jaguar Center, but above all from Yury & Molly!
Sandro and Encar"
You too can make a difference. Even the smallest effort can have a big impact - whether it's helping rescue wildlife or calling attention where there was none. Take notes and pictures. Report or speak out against suspected animal abuse when you travel.
And please support the important work they do at the Jaguar Rescue Center. Email ahead of your trip to inquire about helping with needed supplies, such as Meyenberg powdered goat milk. A visit here will change your life, I promise.