Save the Monkeys “SalveMonos”

SalveMonos (which means Save the Monkeys) is a small nonprofit organization in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica (primarily the Tamarindo and Playa Hermosa areas) created in 2004 by two local business women, Patricia Sterman and Simona Daniele, and their husbands, Larry and Pino.

Save the Monkeys Costa Rica

Karol Allard joined the group and started a northern arm of SalveMonos in Playa Hermosa Guanacaste. Horrified by the sight of howler monkeys electrocuted on power lines and hit on the roads, they decided to take action to save monkeys. The five of them came together at a local community meeting and each donated money to cover the cost of printing souvenir T-shirts which were sold and the profits used to build the first monkey bridges bypassing power lines.

salvemono Costa Rica Playa Hermosa



Every year, Karol Allard  sponsors and organizes a “Drumming Circle” on the beach of Playa Hermosa. There is live music and local artist Carlos Hiller, renowned for creating marvelous paintings and sculptures of Costa Rica wildlife and especially creatures of the ocean.  Carlos is always on hand painting live to the music. During the festivities there are performances of fire dancers, various different musicians and more. Best of all, at the end there is a silent auction to see who gets the original Carlos Hiller painting and this raises a lot of money for SalveMonos’. And let’s not forget to mention the many others that help Karol by selling T-shirts and mugs hats and by walking around the event with jars asking for donations.

Playa Hermosa Save the monkeys
“Thirteen years and thousands of T-shirts later, hundreds of bridges have been built and tens of thousands of monkeys have been saved and/or relocated,” reports Sterman.

Carlos Hiller Playa Hermosa
Howler monkeys have a very important presence on the north Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and economic development is threatening their way of life. In what way? The construction of buildings, houses and roads has a negative impact on trees, the howler monkey’s natural habitat and means of travel from one area to another. Development also increases power lines, roads and traffic. In the absence of trees, monkeys use the increasingly ubiquitous streets and electric cables. As a result, car accidents and electrocutions are the main cause of death and injury to howler monkeys in the area.

Playa Hermosa Monkey
SalveMonos’ goal to save monkeys in Costa Rica is defined by their mission statement: “to protect and rescue wildlife–especially monkeys–through actions that reduce the threats to their way of life, create the environment needed for the survival of their species, and guarantee assistance to monkeys that have suffered accidents or are in danger.” To that end, they established 5 main goals, some of which have been reached while others are ongoing.

They are as follows:
Reforestation and regeneration of biological corridors: Tree nurseries with native species were established and initiatives begun to plant the seedlings in deforested areas. Several areas along the coast have been reforested, reestablishing safe corridors for monkey travel.

Accident prevention: More than 500 bridges have been installed by the electric company for the monkeys to use instead of electric cables. SalveMonos and ICE (national electric company) worked together to design the bridges, and now the company manufactures and installs the bridges free of charge. Also, cone-shaped devices have been installed that prevent monkeys from climbing electric poles. Signs are being placed along roads alerting drivers to the possibility of monkeys crossing the road and setting lower speed limits.
Monkey rescue and shelters: Assistance has been given to more than 600 injured monkeys and 100 orphaned babies. Two shelters have been established to receive the monkeys, get them veterinary assistance, and care for them until they make a full recovery.

Playa Del Coco Monkeys
Community awareness: More than 2,300 persons have shown their support of the SalveMonos’ project by donating money, reporting trouble spots, and calling to report injured monkeys. Twenty-five events have been organized to raise money and awareness and recruit volunteers. Local schools have participated in educational workshops.
Influencing local authorities and electric companies: The electric company has committed publicly to hang bridges in the areas SalveMonos deems necessary, to insulate the cables that result in electrocutions, and to lop off the branches near electric poles so monkeys are less likely to climb them. The association continues to work with the electric company to insulate transformers and at least one of the two “hot” wires. This could reduce mortality rates by 90%.

playa hermosa monkey
Every year the communities’ involvement and support has increased–a key to the project’s effectiveness. SalveMonos draws inspiration from the words of Jane Goodall, a world-renowned animal welfare activist: “Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.”
Would you like to help save monkeys in Costa Rica? Donations can be made via PayPal on the SalveMonos website. There you will find contact information if you would like to report injured monkeys, volunteer to rescue and transport injured monkeys or help in one of the shelters.

 

Safety in Costa Rica

Many people ask about safety in Costa Rica.  So, is it safe? The answer is yes, very safe. Costa Rica is safer than most countries in the Americas, including major areas of Canada and the United States. So, should I be concerned for my safety?

That said, however, there is crime in Costa Rica, as is in most parts of the world. Petty theft is the most common crime that affects tourists.

Safety in Costa Rica

Let me give you the most important item to be aware of that will make your time in Costa Rica an enjoyable one and protect you from petty crime.

safety

First and foremost, for safety reasons always familiarize yourself with the surrounding area.  This means even where you live. If it looks shady, and I don’t me from trees, then most likely it is! Costa Rica is not a gun-toting country, and mass shootings are all but unheard of here. That doesn’t mean Costa Rica is the end-all utopia—common sense and basic precautions are still needed. Yes, I’m sorry, even on vacation. I have an expression I always used when visiting a new location or even a favorite spot I returned to, “Don’t leave your brain on the plane”.

costa rica

According to the Tico Times newspaper, in 2018, tourists filed 1,785 criminal complaints. “That marks a 27% increase from 2014, though there has also been a 19% increase in the number of tourists in that time,” the newspaper notes. Thefts and robberies account for more than 95% of reported crimes, according to law enforcement reports.

To help improve safety in Costa Rica, the country’s tourism board (ICT) and the Public Security Ministry (MSP) are joining forces to increase police presence in most of the tourist areas. Their agreement provides funding, training and equipment for more than 300 Tourist Police.

costa rica police

This is all very reassuring, but let’s get back to your best protection, common sense and alertness. Any vacation destination can turn into a nightmare if you zone out and don’t take simple, reasonable precautions. Here are a few other examples to just be aware of:

With few exceptions, most crimes take place at night. So don’t be out alone after dark. Be aware of rowdy bars or in isolated locations. If driving, try to arrive at your destination before nightfall. People and animals roam the roads in Costa Rica, and at night they can be almost impossible to see.

DO NOT!! And I REPEAT DO NOT!! leave your possessions unattended—even in a locked car—at any time. Not when you go to take a picture of an animal you have spotted. Not when you are in a restaurant. Not when you are at the beach. Never. It’s the #1 rule for safety in Costa Rica because Smash and Grab is the most common crime that affects tourists.

smash and grab costa rica

One of the more elaborate but still pretty simple set ups is to bump the victim’s car from behind. The unsuspecting victim stops, believing he or she is involved in a minor accident, and the car is robbed by one assailant while the other is distracting you.

Another tip to ensure your safety in Costa Rica is to be wary of strangers offering to help with car problems. Use extreme caution if you have a flat tire. Drivers with flat tires are advised to drive, if possible, to the nearest service station or other public area, and change the tire themselves, watching their valuables at all times. This is another form that the bad guys like to use. However, do not be surprised if a good-hearted Tico offers to help you, because Ticos are very helpful people.

Do not carry around a lot of cash, expensive equipment or jewelry. Leave your passport in the safe at the hotel and carry a photocopy of the picture page and the page stamped when you entered Costa Rica. Keep a list on paper as well as a digital list of the contact information for your bank and credit cards as well as plane tickets and other travel documents in a safe place. Because you could accidentally lose your wallet or purse. Remember “don’t leave your brain on the plane!”

costa rica ATM

When you leave your hotel or the beautiful villa you rented for your vacation, lock everything up.  Don’t leave things like your computer, iPad, iPod and other valuable items just sitting on the table or bed.

Only exchange money at banks. There are two reasons: 1- you will get the best exchange rate and 2- you are not flashing cash around. Reserve tours online through reputable tour agencies and don’t make a deal with the “guy on the corner or on the beach”. Be alert to what is going on around you when using ATMs. If you are going to use plastic to pay for things, it is better to use your credit card than a debit card. These are some basic things that you would do back home, so it’s good to practice the same safety in Costa Rica.

costa rica banks

Please don’t let this scare you. Those of us who live here year round can attest to the fact that absolutely nothing has happened to us without a single criminal incident in our lives. In over eleven years, almost 12 now living in Costa Rica and especially Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, I have never has one thing stolen from me. I sleep safely and soundly because I have taken precautions. You will, too!

See you soon and remember “Safe today, here tomorrow”, no matter where you are in the world.