Through a set of tall hand crafted iron gates, tucked away in the hills of Santa Marta is SIBU animal sanctuary, a truly special place. Very few people have had the privilege of visiting SIBU, its jungle gardens and residents prefer the solace and peace its gates provide.
In collaboration with Nosara Wildlife Rescue (NWR), SIBU acts as the second phase in a “step down release program” meant to rehabilitate injured or orphaned monkeys and release them back into the wild. In line with the program’s ultimate objective of naturalization, human-monkey interaction is kept to a minimum.
Not a motor to be heard, not an electric line to be seen, SIBU’s grounds are made up of 50 acres of lush jungle rolling over and between a hilly landscape. Behind monkey-adorned gates is a unique kind of quiet. The forest and its creatures seem to be at ease here without competition from man or motor.
Several paths diverge to six picturesque hilltop clearings. Adjacent to the highest clearing is a one room casita and less than a stone’s throw away a monkey hábitat. The casita is home to Steve and Vicky Coan, founders of SIBU. The couple shares their limited living space with monkeys and other animals who need special attention. The space doubles as a home, intensive care unit, storage space, office and area for conducting daily operations. After witnessing the devastating effects of human encroachment on monkey territory the couple started working with Brenda Bombard in 2001. Officially, SIBU Sanctuary opened it's gates as a non-profit establishment in 2009.
Up to this point SIBU and NWR has been able to drum up close to $100,000 annually to maintain and develop their initiative, much of the funding coming from their own pockets. As the newness of the project wears off and the sheer extent of their undertaking becomes clearer, the founders are faced with a double bind.
To open the sanctuary to visitors or not — that is the question. Without a steady flow of finances and an increasingly heavy workload, the founders are searching for solutions. Allowing a select type and number of guests at $50 donation per person is one of the latest considerations. Potential guests would be selected carefully and taken on private, guided tours.
Though Vicky, Steve and Brenda are confident that Sibu and NWR are sustainable as is, it is difficult to expand and tackle the ongoing issue outside of the sanctuary without hiring additional staff.
“Help would be nice, but everything has a cost, and everything adds up,” said a monkey-covered Vicky. “There is always too much to do, I have to stop myself, look around and take time to realize how much we have done and continue to do, to appreciate it, but it’s difficult when I think of the endless list of ‘to-do’s.”
Despite being short-staffed and short-funded, progress is constant. A primary focus is prevention, and with it education. Preventing injury to monkeys starts with targeting the leading cause of monkey injury and death in Nosara; electricity. “All we ask is that lines and transformers are insulated, and are kept free of branches and foliage,” said Vicky.
Throughout their challenges and perseverance Sibu and NWR have found an unlikely ally with the National Institute of Electricity (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, ICE). ICE has taken interest and concern in the cause and the relationship between the small non-profit organization and the national electric conglomerate is strengthening with time.
The working relationship between ICE and NWR is materializing in the form of a documentary, commissioned by ICE, that is currently in the works. A film crew took the time to visit the sanctuary and interview the founders. Moreover, a third calendar, the annual NWR fundraiser and auction, scheduled for February 3, 2012 and a children’s book are in the works.
As for SIBU’s current primate residents, things are looking up. A lively bunch of monkeys is almost ready to be released back into the wild. As the cycle of intake and out take continues many success stories have emerged.