Costa Rica rainforest

In 1999, two nine-year-old girls living in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, were troubled by the deforestation that was putting their beloved squirrel monkey at risk. So Janine Licare and Aislin Livingstone raised money with a roadside crafts stand and bought 4 acres of rainforest. Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR), has grown to manage a reforestation program, a wildlife rescue and sanctuary, and a bridge-building program that reduces wildlife/human conflicts.

Now, approaching 20 years later, the organization that grew around Licare and Livingstone’s efforts is getting serious and going global.


KSTR’s newest project returns to its roots. KSTR is replanting almost 300 acres of forest in Parrita, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, with nursery-grown native tree saplings. The trees will be maintained for 20 years and will never be logged. KSTR will release wildlife from their rehabilitation center to join the white-faced monkeys and three-toed sloths that already live in the forest.

Wildlife Rescue Center and Sanctuary

KSTR runs a wildlife rescue center and sanctuary for wounded, sick, and abandoned rainforest animals. They staff the center with a wildlife vet, vet tech, professional staff, and amateur volunteers. They care for up to 200 monkeys, capuchins, sloths, kinkajous, and raccoons each year. They report a 55 percent release rate and are working to become the first organization to successfully release hand-raised two-toed sloths into the wild.

KSTR is not certified or accredited by either the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries or the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. However, traveler reports do indicate that KSTR animals receive quality care. Costa Rican national licensing standards for sanctuaries have recently changed. Centers like KSTR that exhibit their animals will have to make changes to comply with the new law when their current license expires.

Monkey Bridges

Most wild animals that end up in sanctuaries are there as a result of human activity. In Manuel Antonio, monkeys and sloths trying to cross roads are hit by cars or electrocuted by power lines. Working with the local electric company, KSTR maintains 130 monkey bridges over the roads that are most dangerous to wildlife. They also work with other organizations to help spread the practice of building wildlife bridges.

You Can Help

Now adults, the girls both work in North America; Licare heads the U.S. affiliate of KSTR and Livingstone works for an environmental nonprofit in Canada. Although KSTR is too small to qualify for evaluation by Charity Navigator, they are registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States, express a commitment to transparency, and offer many ways for people to get involved.

When you donate through their website, you can specify how you want your money spent (e.g., $100 sponsors a new monkey bridge). For now, funds from facility tours still support sanctuary operations. Short- and long-term volunteer and intern positions allow for various skill levels. Tweens are welcome to volunteer when accompanied by an adult. The volunteers do not interact with the animals, but they do help kids save the rainforest.

Feature image by JanBartel on

By Gemma Alexander

Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.