Our History - Refugio Herpetologico

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Our History

Our History

The Herpetological Refuge was established in 2003 by Mr. Rodolfo Vargas Leiton.
Mr. Leiton had a great passion for wildlife since early childhood. As  twelve years old boy he obtained his first snake and felt in love instantaneously. Today, Mr. Leiton is the right person to call when a hotel, household or a job site finds unexpected snake or any other wild animal. The refuge project started privately and on a small scale since all the necessary equipment, finances and space needed was not available. Over time a group of volunteers, herpetologists and biologists contributed their time and money to the project.

In the present day we receive and care for animals seized by MINAET (Ministerio del ambiente energia y telecomunicaciones). While MINAET does save the animals they do lack the facilities to care for them and as a result the institution is dependent on wild animal refuge centers. Many of our animals were victims of abuse, illegal captivity or poaching. Additionally,  an important group of animals who enter our refuge are rescued by the national fire service of Costa Rica.  

Since there are only few wild animal refuge centers in the greater San Jose area opening our herpetological and wild animal refuge helped reduce the need for animal shelters. Local zoos can’t receive more animals as they already operate at almost 100% capacity and often do not have the required space or specialized management to shelter them.

Ever since we started operating the animal refuge has been maintained as a sustainable economic project.  We participate or create environmental education talks, courses on wildlife management, national tree sales, create nature trails in hotels or private properties and keep inventories of wild life. Besides the previously mentioned projects, we also advice other animal refuges, offer an environment for wild life photography and work with TV networks such as the National Geographic.

The owner and founder, Mr. Leiton, has worked for over twelve years managing serpentarium, frog farms and butterfly farms. Today, the projects extended and the refuge cares for wide variety of animal species. In 2009 Mr. Leiton was the winner of scholarship for professional training program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

The year 2008 was one of the toughest years in the history of our animal refuge. We operated at almost 80% space capacity and needed to expand rapidly as more and more animals were brought to us everyday. For various reasons some of our animals could not be released back to the wild and as a result we decided to open the refuge to the public. Our location was set on Alto de las Palomas or the old road to Santa Ana and our primary goal was and still is to educate the public about the environment and wild life.

With the support of Dr. Brady Barr or National Geographic we were able to start the project on a bigger scale. Dr. Barr cut the ceremonial ribbon on January 22, 2011 and as such he marked the official opening of the Refugio Herpetologico do Costa Rica.

At the present day we have 24 species of snakes, some venomous and some non-venomous 3 species of Saurians, 3 species of primates, 2 species of crocodillians, 8 species of Kelonidos and much more.

Day by day there are guided tours which are explained with details to the people who visit us.We are extremely grateful to all who come and support our project in thousands of ways.

Main Entry
Inaugural Ribbon Cutting with Dr. Brady Barr
Part of Our Exhibition
Part of Our Exhibition
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