Tesa Mendoza Blowey ’21 always knew she wanted to work with animals. Before college, she spent summers in Costa Rica and volunteered at the Toucan Rescue Ranch, the conservation center where she works today.
For college, she applied to a wide range of schools in California. “Once I looked into the conservation and ecology courses UC Davis offered, it was a no-brainer,” she said. Blowey majored in wildlife, fish and conservation biology, and after briefly considering following a veterinarian career tract, she decided to focus on rehabilitation. At UC Davis, she explored bird research through an internship, monitoring and collecting data from chicks living in nests along Putah Creek. Blowey was also part of the club soccer team, where she said she formed some of her closest friendships during her undergraduate years.
After graduating, Blowey immediately applied to intern at the Toucan Rescue Ranch. “I always had it in the back of my head to come back to the ranch,” she said. Two months after graduation, she took a one-way plane trip to Costa Rica to start an internship focusing on howler monkeys at Wild Sun Rescue. She worked alongside an animal behavior specialist, learning to do behavioral ethograms, scientific records of animal observations, to determine which monkeys were ready for release. She returned to the Toucan Rescue Ranch in December 2021 and is now the release site supervisor, overseeing the last stage of rehabilitation.
Toucan Rescue Ranch cares for injured and displaced Costa Rican fauna. The ranch was founded in 2004 to aid toucans and has expanded to rehabilitate animals like parrots and sloths. The nonprofit consists of a clinic and a pre-release site, where Blowey is responsible for communication with veterinarian supervisors, exchanging information between the two sites to help make decisions on animal releases. “To be able to see an animal back where it belongs, knowing you played a part in helping it get there, that I think that’s the most rewarding part,” Blowey said.
Recently, Blowey helped launch Saving Howler Monkeys Together, a new program focused on injured and orphaned howler monkeys. With the help of another intern, Blowey created animal care protocols for the project. “Saving Howler Monkeys Together is in its beginning steps, and I want to see how we can best provide care for these extremely complex animals.” Blowey is currently tracking the assimilation of two released howler monkeys, and she is trying to raise money to fund other rehabilitations.
Blowey and her rescued puppy, Mona, live in a tiny house in the middle of the jungle. She visits her family in Southern California annually, and outside of conservation, she said she wants to “branch out and travel.”