Complaint Review: The Monkey Farm, Vicki Conley
The Monkey Farm, Vicki Conley Vicki Conley After earning my degree in veterinary medicine and coming to a crossroads in my life, I needed a change and wanted to seek out a purpose, gain experience with exotics in a clinic setting while volunteering for a good cause. Playa del Coco Other- Costa Rica
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I found out about volunteering at The monkey farm in Costa Rica through a legit website for LVT’s to volunteer overseas. After going through the application process and being “selected” I was asked for a $100 deposit to hold my place since they only choose 1 out of 20 applicants. I was then asked to do a fundraiser to raise $500 through youcaring.com before going to volunteer. I constantly shared the fundraiser page on social media asking all of my friends and family to please donate to help me, save the monkeys at The Monkey Farm. It was almost June 5th so I started packing my 50lbs of camping gear and luggage preparing to camp in a tent for the minimum stay of one month in Costa Rica since the volunteer cabin would be full, I had a better chance of acceptance If I brought a tent. After traveling over 3,000 miles to Costa Rica, I arrived at The Monkey Farm, only to find out that there were NO monkeys, no clinic and a very different atmosphere than I expected. I didn’t receive a very warm welcome from the owner, Vicki Conley whom I had been email back and forth for over a month while planning and she seemed very nice over email, but in person was completely different. I wasn’t given a tour of the farm or told anything other than pick any spot you want to set up your tent. I expected to be walking into a great experience with other volunteers from all over the world, a clinic for medical care, a permaculture garden that supplied our food, an aquaponics system I was curious to know all about and well cared for wildlife, exotic species and farm animals. Instead I walked into a living hell. I spoke with the only other volunteer there who had been there for three months. And to my surprise he was also the only one in the volunteer cabin with 7 other empty beds. He said he had hitchhiked there 3 months ago, ended up at the farm by chance and had been living there ever since. I asked him if he had to make a $100 deposit to “hold” his spot or raise $500 before coming and his answer was no. At this point I felt like crying. I began to ask him where the monkeys were that I had asked my friends and family to raise money for and he said that they had none right now because they had, yet again, been seized by MINEA the (Costa Rican government.) He told me not to worry because by the end of my month a local would probably bring one in. At this point I am wondering what in the heck I am going to do. That night I was thankful that I managed to get a good meal in at the airport because there was no food in sight. The rain started to come after setting up my tent and I started to get drenched. The next morning, I had sent a friend a message about my horrors after arriving. He did some quick research on Vicki Conley and what he sent me was horrifying. According to these documents she had previously been involved with international volunteer scams in the states with an international grooming school. I also knew it wasn’t a good sign when I saw that she went by about 6 other different alias’s or names and had many sketchy background internet businesses going on. That morning, it got worse… In the mud pit pastures I saw 13 undernourished horses who are currently being used for giving tourist rides on the beach. They were all very unthrifty looking, their hooves were cracked and broken, the medical body condition score of these horses were a 2/5 or a 3/5 at best. Most of them had diarrhea and over all very frail and ill compared to what my horses and other healthy horses are supposed to look like. I then saw about 12 very unhealthy looking goats and pigs also in a small area of fencing. The goats that were available for the tourist to pet in the barn looked a lot better and had access to hay, unlike the others. Vicki came back that morning from the automercado (a local grocery store in coco) with the left over, or scraps of all of their fruits, vegetables and pastries. The other volunteer and I were told to separate the large trash bags of half rotten slop into different buckets for the animals. As I am sorting through this mess, I am asking the other volunteer what food goes in what animal’s bucket. To my surprise, all of the watermelon and pineapple RINDS went to the horses, all of the mold covered lemons, limes and oranges went to the goats with a mixture of everything else and pretty much the same for the pigs. I am thinking, “no wonder they all have diarrhea!” I had never heard of feeding citrus fruits to any animal, especially a ruminant (an animal with 4 stomachs). The other volunteer was eating different fruits that looked only half rotten and then he said to me, “pick out what looks ok for you to eat for lunch.” I was hungry so I found a green apple that didn’t look too bad or have any worm holes and tried to eat it. A green apple marinated in rotten fruit juices is not good, trust me on that. I was horrified and knew that I could not be a part of this cruelty and neglect. I wasn’t sure if it was a major lack of education and funds or If the owner was just pocketing all of the donations and getting by with free slop since that is their daily diet. I then asked about one of the farm dogs, Coquetta, because she had been laying on the cement in the feed room all day, breathing really hard with high respirations and had a really deep-harsh cough that sounded to me like end stage heart worm disease. I was told by the other volunteer that she has had that cough since almost drowning as a puppy. Medically speaking, I had never heard of anything like that being possible but I knew that the way that they would jerk her around by her collar to put her back outside wasn’t helping either. Once I learned the magnitude of the situation my morals would not allow me to participate and I knew I had to leave. Three tourist came to visit later that morning and to distract them from coming all the way to the monkey farm, that had no monkeys, Vicki handed the little girl a baby raccoon. I was already shocked to see how the wildlife was being handled. The baby squirrels and raccoons were treated like kittens which isn’t necessarily harmful unless this goes on too long and then they are not able to have a chance in the wild. The baby raccoon pooped on the little girl’s purse and I became horrified knowing that raccoons naturally shed a parasite called Baylisascaris procyonis that is a very dangerous, zoonotic roundworm parasite that can be fatal to humans. ( http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/8/4/01-0273_article ) In my experience, when handling raccoons, you must take extra precaution when cleaning their feces due to the dangers of this naturally occurring parasite. All that they had at The Monkey Farm to disinfect this little girls purse was vinegar. Again, lack of education, very poor management and a very high risk to take with the health and safety of the public. Also, orphaned wildlife should not be used in a petting zoo setting. This is unlawful, unhealthy to the animal and human and should be a major concern for the community to consider. I knew I had to leave but still wanted to serve my purpose in Costa Rica. My luck started to change when I signed on my Facebook account and had a message from a local in Coco beach trying to warn me about the farm being a volunteer scam. I immediately wrote her back explaining that I was at the farm and trying to figure out how to get out ASAP. She offered to come and picked me up since I had little resources, in a foreign country and not much money. She said that she had previously rescued 12 other "Monkey farmers" in the last year and that she had made it her personal mission to help the volunteers being scammed to get out or warn them in advance to prevent innocent people getting taken advantage of in such a beautiful country. I admired her passion for animals and activist personality that clearly fought for the greater good and I was instantly relieved to know that I was not alone and would be ok. Luckily, I was put in contact with a real wildlife and refuge in Nosara, where the government placed the monkeys that had been seized from the monkey farm. This well-known refuge was not surprised to hear where I was calling from. They had been trying to help get her shut down since she has no licenses or permits to have possession of any monkeys. Thankfully they were able to take me in as a volunteer. They had a REAL hospital and rescue setting. They did not ask me for any contribution besides my time and work for their 36 monkeys being treated and cared for. The local woman picked me up from the monkey farm and then took me to get something to eat since I had only had that nasty apple since arriving at the farm 48 hours prior and then she took me to a safe hostel. I stayed a few days in Coco before taking a bus to Nosara to start my real volunteer work. I emailed Vicki Conley to request my fundraising money back with no response. After posting my bad review on a Monkey farm review page, a rumor got started on FB by Vicki Conley through one of her friends facebook post that stated that I and a “known monkey farm hater” (The woman who rescued me) had been seen at the monkey farm right before Coquetta (the farm dog) was poisoned. I knew immediately that this was another lie Vicki Conley was going to tell the public in attempt to down play the bad review I had posted regarding the farm. The dog had obviously been in horrible shape way before I arrived there. Not to mention that my life revolves around helping animals, not hurting them, so this was very surprising to me that Vicki’s friends actually believed this without questioning the story at all. It is hard to prove that a dog has been poisoned without a necropsy which would have had to be performed by DVM in San Jose. I was sad to hear that Coquetta had passed away but angered to know that this woman was so evil that she was going to try to pin her neglect on me and the girl who helped me. At this point I could see all of the strength it took from those trying to help these animals because this woman is very good at what she does. I kept emailing her about refunding my money and the rumors that she was starting and she continued to ignore all communications with me, as expected. I was then contacted by a reported at Tico Times who had seen my story and many other experiences from international volunteers and they were also aware of MINEA’s involvement and public dishonesty frequently being posted on the monkey farm facebook page. He said he was working on a story about what was going on behind scenes at the monkey farm so I told the Tico times reporter my story. I finished my time in Nosara and after a very crazy beautiful trip, I headed back to the states. After getting home I learned that Vicki Conley filled a denuncia against me and the woman who rescued me from the farm. The denuncia stated that we had poisoned her dog Coquetta. This level of evil, dishonesty and malicious behavior is very concerning. I knew I had to go public with my experience. It hasn’t been easy to find the words or to notify everyone that was kind enough to donate that their donations did not go to help any monkeys, instead this was a scam. I hope that by sharing my story I can bring light to a very dark situation and save other volunteers from falling into this trap. It took me a while to save all of the money and be able to fund this trip and I was left feeling very fooled, taken advantage of and hurt that my family & friends have been involved and worried about me during this incident. Unfortunately, this has happened to many others. There is a FB page that was started by ex-volunteers of The Monkey Farm where many accounts sound similar to my experience. I also tried to contact the Youcaring.com website that the donations went through and see If I had ANY chance of getting everyone's money back, with no luck. They explained that the money went straight into her account and since the reviews on the monkey farm seem ok and the farm seems legit via website and internet, that they were not able to shut down her funding page. I also posted a review on trip advisor after leaving the farm, and to my surprise, two months later, mine and my dad’s reviews have not been posted for the public to see. This would explain the good rating, but again, disappointing to know that reviews for the public can be altered in such a way to deceive others. I hope that in sharing my experience that others can learn to do more research, not necessarily on the place, but on the owner as well. Trust your gut and always, no matter how scary it is, stand up for what you believe in and don’t let the evil ways of others bring you down. The only way I know how to help those animals and warn other innocent people is from sharing my experience. Thank you for reading my story.
This international volunteer opportunity is a scam.She will gladly ask you to complete a $500 fundraiser before coming with a $100 deposit to "hold your spot." She is not allowed to have any monkeys and has no licenses or permits to have them which is why the government keeps seizing the animals.The other farm animals are in horrible health and are not being cared for properly. Do not volunteer here or visit as a tourist!
This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 07/25/2016 10:41 AM and is a permanent record located here: https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/the-monkey-farm-vicki-conley/playa-del-coco-other/the-monkey-farm-vicki-conley-vicki-conley-after-earning-my-degree-in-veterinary-medicine-1318763. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content
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