The preserve is difficult to traverse, which protects the animals from human predators. It has abundant water, twenty-five acres of primary rainforest, and the balance, seventy-five acres, in twelve-year-old secondary growth that was once a fruit farm. It is peppered with thousands of guayaba (guava) trees, a favorite of monkeys and parrots. Because of the terrain, water, and fruit, the preserve is home to large troops of three of the four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica, as well as other native animals. Parrots, toucans, and rare species of birds are abundant. Scarlet macaws, once locally extinct but recently reintroduced to the region, are heard “conversing,” and there have been macaw feathers found, showing they too call the farm home.
For more than forty years, I have worked to protect animals.
My interest in monkeys started when I was seventeen, working for a road-painting crew in rural South Carolina. One fateful day, I saw and rescued a capuchin monkey being used as an "attraction" at a gas station. Dweezil was wild, angry, and dangerous, but through patience and love, I tamed him. Dweezil became my family, and he rode on my back for almost ten years, going everywhere I went.
When I was only eighteen I had the opportunity to manage the Cleveland Park Zoo in South Carolina for a year (after the sudden departure of the director), where I cared for an elephant, various big cats, chimpanzees, monkeys, and other exotic animals.
Later, on my farm in central North Carolina, I raised horses, cows, goats, many species of domestic fowl, as well as providing a safe refuge for deer, raccoons, foxes, and every wild animal native to that area. Over the years, other monkeys needing rescue joined Dweezil. Keeping them was expensive and time consuming, but it was my life and my cause for thirty-eight years.
I never liked keeping animals caged, especially primates, and I dreamed of one day releasing them to the wild, but laws banning the transport and import of wild animals (laws I support) forced me to abandon that dream. After a vacation trip to Costa Rica, I decided that, as a tribute to Dweezil, I wanted to spend my remaining years protecting rainforest habitat for wild monkeys.
We cashed out the equity in our farm and, by the grace of God, were able to procure a hundred acres of prime monkey habitat in southern Costa Rica near the Pacific coast, close to the famous surf town of Pavones. Being close to Pavones may provide us with a means to sustain and even enlarge the sanctuary through ecotourism. I hope to add more land to Finca Mono, but because land prices have rapidly escalated, I feel lucky to have the large tract we do.
On my trips to the region, I have encountered many people with similar goals. One is Luis Vargas, a knowledgeable and popular nature guide for the Tiskita Jungle Lodge. Another is Katie Mann, a primate conservationist who is currently working with the Guayami indians, educating and empowering them to protect their resources (both animal and forest) from logging and poaching. See Amigos de los Monos for more information.
My right-hand man, Lulu, is a self-educated naturalist. Born and raised in southwestern Costa Rica, he has been a tremendous help to the project, and I learn much from him in spite of my minimal Spanish. I have spent several hard-working months with him on the preserve, clearing vines and debris from the fruit trees so that they will bear more for the animals. Lulu looks after the preserve when I am in the States.
These relationships and others will help me develop my project into a self-sustaining preserve for not only monkeys, but all the threatened species in the region.
The terrain is very rugged. There are two large creeks providing abundant water, twenty-five acres of primary (never cut) forest, and the balance, 75 acres, in secondary jungle rich in fruit trees. This is rainforest, and growth is so rapid that there is little evidence that three-quarters of the preserve was once pasture for cattle and fruit orchards. In order to get from one end to the other, Lulu and I have to chop our way through ... and a few months later the trail is gone. Perfect for animals.
But the danger is there. The southwestern coast, once remote, is currently experiencing tremendous development, and the animals are being displaced. I want to make sure that they have some place to go. There is an effort to create a corridor that would begin in the large Guaymi reservation on the south, curve around the Golfo Dulce, and finally connect to the huge protected Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.
Currently, I am liquidating my assets in the United States for funds to secure and expand the preserve. My next step is to renovate the small house on the property for a caretaker, cap the spring to provide year-round water, plant more fruit trees throughout, and cut a narrow trail to provide quick access to protect against illegal logging and hunting. It's heartbreaking to hear chainsaws in the distance but arrive too late to save a protected cochimbo tree from being poached, probably to end up as flooring for a mansion in Beverly Hills. There are so few of these magnificent trees left!
I will update this site and change the slide shows as things happen. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a message when things change. Your address will not be shared or used in any other way. As I hope is obvious, this preserve is my heart's dream come true. Thank you for your interest in rainforest preservation! If you would like to see the preserve for yourself, please see Pavones Ecotours or contact me.