Welcome, Talula and Yasmin!

The Refugio has recently welcomed two new volunteers, Talula and Yasmin, both second year students from St. John’s College, University of Oxford. 

Yasmin studies Biology and is enjoying discovering more about the unique adaptations and medicinal properties of the native plants. She is also interested in learning more about sustainable living and permaculture at the Refugio.

Talula studies Spanish and Arabic and, as well as honing her Spanish skills, has a keen interest in wildlife photography. Keep a look out for her pictures of birds, dragonflies, amphibians, mammals and more on the Instagram page @RefugioTinti.

Together they have been weeding the vegetable gardens, cooking evening meals and searching for species new to the Refugio.

Welcome, Talula and Yasmin!

On June 8th, we had the pleasure of organizing a workshop with the local environmental women’s group AGRICOP. Their goal: transforming a hectare of their land into a showpiece for regenerative agriculture.

We are constantly exploring new ways to get people excited about the countless upsides of regenerative agriculture. Rather than simply giving a lecture on the mechanics, we simply focussed on asking a few, important questions to which we then figured out the answers together: what is the ecosystem? Why is the ecosystem so important to us? We continued to quiz them until they themselves came up with answers: functioning ecosystems provide us with clean air, clean water, fertile soils, and many more basic things without which no one could imagine living.

With each question, we went further into details: how does the ecosystem provide us with clean air? What happens when we interrupt the process? How can we repair it? What are the answers to these questions if we consider clean water, fertile earth, the value of biodiversity, or climate stability?

It was wonderful to witness how, in an instructed Q&A game, the group itself ultimately was providing all the right answers – all we had to do was to ask. And at the end of the Q&A we showed them how we in the Refugio are addressing the solutions they themselves came up with. Maybe this inquiry-based method of teaching about ecosystems and regenerative agriculture can inspire others to sharpen people’s understanding of the natural cycles which sustain our life on earth.

The environmental inquiry method: trialing a new approach to teaching about ecosystems

At the Refugio, we constantly strive to connect researchers and practitioners from diverse fields related to ecosystem restoration. We have been particularly honored to host Dr. Jenella Loye and Dr. Scott Carroll, two entomologists and evolutionary ecologists at the University of California, Davis. 

During a tour of the Refugio, conversations revolved around the overlapping interests of the researchers and Alexander. Dr. Loye and Dr. Carroll pioneered the scientific testing and development of organic, natural and low-toxicity pesticides, fertilizers and soil amendments, which is why the successful application of permacultural methods at the Refugio found an echo with them.

We are proud that our proposal for the diversification of palm oil monocultures into food forests was of particular interest to our guests, not least because they own land in Southern Costa Rica themselves. We hope to build a productive and mutually enriching relationship on this basis!

UC Davis researchers visit the Refugio

We are very happy to have Quirine Melssen (www.quirinemelssen.nl), the well known performer from the Netherlands, join us for a month of volunteering. Apart from caring for our vegetable garden and preparing wonderful meals ‘from farm to table’, her classically trained, warm and engaging voice seems to touch not only us but also several animals in the Refugio. With her ‘Songs for the animals’ Quirine adds a whole new dimension to our aim of reconnecting with nature

Welcome to the team, Quirine!

We are excited to announce that a new animal species found a new habitat in the Refugio: the masked duck (Nomonyx dominicus), a reclusive and rarely seen diving duck of the tropical lowlands. They feed at night and during the day one can see them sleeping on the pond never far from the shore. They obviously enjoy their new home in between wildlife ponds and underbrush and we hope they will become regular breeders in the Refugio.

The return of the masked duck (Nomonyx dominicus)

Following a series of enriching conversations between Geoffrey Holland of Stanford University’s Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) and Alexander, the interview “Refugio Tinti: Reflections of Nature’s Design” has now been published. You can read it here to learn more about the Refugio’s path from wasteland to sanctuary, Alexander’s views of the challenges posed by modern industrial agriculture and possible remedies inspired by nature’s ingenuity.

The MAHB describes itself as “a meeting place for global civil society” and aims to unite “citizens concerned with the interconnections among the greatest threats to human well-being”. We believe in the importance of this goal and are proud to be featured in this medium.

Read the interview here.

Read Alexander’s interview with Stanford University’s MAHB

Bela arrived last week from Austria to volunteer at the Refugio. He is a certified permaculturalist who recently helped building up a permacultural farm in Sri Lanka. His experience in the tropics and his fine sense for patterns comes in handy at the Refugio. 

Being very proactive, Bela is in charge now of the reorganisation of our vegetable garden.

Apart from being a wonderful team worker, he is also an accomplished draftsman and with his guitar he spreads joy wherever he goes.

Meet Bela, our new volunteer

We are happy to welcome Christine from Germany to volunteer at the Refugio for a few weeks. Since her arrival our culinary joys received a significant upgrade. Inventively including ‘exotic’ herbs and plants grown in the Refugio she helps us make a large step towards our goal from-farm-to-table. 

At home, Christine owns the beautiful Restaurant Michelsberg-Hersbruck (www.michelsberg-hersbruck.de). Check it out, we are sure it will be worth it!

Welcoming Christine

Exciting news: for the first time since our arrival 5 years ago, we can announce the sighting of a mother with two cubs of the neotropical river otter, another species threatened by extinction that found a new habitat in the Refugio and even produced offspring. River otters have been brought to the brink of extinction through heavy hunting for their fur from 1950 to the 1970s. Current threats are habitat loss through illegal hunting, mining, water pollution and ranching. Attempts at captive breeding proved largely unsuccessful.

This species is an important ecological indicator because they prefer ecologically rich, aquatic habitats and have a low reproductive potential. We are proud and happy that these otters were choosing the Refugio as their new home.

Watch the video below to see them playing!

Appearance of the neotropical river otter (Lutra longicaudus) in the Refugio

Being a wildlife sanctuary and having the goal to create habitats for as many animal species as possible, sightings of new species are always an exciting event. The University of Costa Rica is monitoring the animal species living at the Refugio with camera traps. This time the ‘harvest’ was particularly exciting: besides the usual peccaries, koaties, ant eaters, tyras, currassows and many others, they captured ozelot, puma and jaguarundi – three big cats that are already threatened by extinction in Costa Rica.

Some of the shots the camera trap could capture are below.

silhouette of a jaguarundi in the back
ozelot
ozelot
puma