The Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita) is a protected species in Latvia, their numbers continue to decrease. In 2010–2013 a total of 338 young Natterjack Toads, bred in the Zoo's Laboratory of Ecology, were released into the wild in Garaiskalns protected nature area to supplement and strengthen the existing wild population there.
Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) at Riga Zoo. – Photo: Juris Zvirgzds
Riga Zoo takes care of wildlife casualties, rehabilitating them and, where possible, releasing them back into the wild. In 2008–2017, 377 wild animals where admitted to the Zoo's Quarantine station. 228 of them were rehabilitated successfully and 77 were released back into the wild.
Rehabilitation work is conducted both by the Zoo in Riga and Affiliate Cīruļi. For example, in 2002, when a severe storm in Southern Latvia destroyed many White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) nests and in addition to this a drought in July–August made stork's food source scarce, 21 White Storks were admitted to Zoo's Affiliate Cīruļi. 11 young were rehabilitated successfully, and nine of them were able to join the wild stork autumn migration to Africa.
Since the space and resources of the Zoo are limited it is not able to provide help in all cases. A number of wildlife rehabilitation centers that have been created in Latvia in recent years are also prepared to help wild animals in trouble. The Zoo conducts education campaigns to raise public awareness and prevent wild animals from ending up in unnecessary captivity.
Birne I. 2017. Savvaļas dzīvniekam nepieciešama palīdzība? Ko darīt? – Latvijas Veterinārārstu biedrības ikgadējā konference 3.03.2017., Rīga. (In Latvian.)
Orphaned hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus) pups from the wild at the Zoo's Quarantine station. – Photo: Māris Lielkalns
Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) young at the wild. If owlets are healthy and there are no visible threats or problems, they do not need any "help" nor have to be taken to the zoo. Their parents are nearby and will take care of them. – Photo: Elīna Gulbe
Riga Zoo undertakes the rehabilitation of stranded seal pups found on shores of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. In 1983–2017, 138 seal pups were brought to the Zoo. 66 of them were rehabilitated successfully. The rehabilitated seals were included in the Zoo's animal collection, sent to other zoos or released back to the sea. In 2002–2017 a total of sixteen rehabilitated young seals were released back to the Gulf of Riga. All individuals were equipped with flipper tags. There have been no reports that any of the tagged specimens has been found.
Stranded Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) pup, taken to the rehabilitation at the Zoo. – Photo: Sergejs Čičagovs
In 2005, a campaign was launched together with Daugavpils Zoo, calling on people to report all sightings of the rare native European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis). The project was funded by the Environmental Protection Fund of Latvia.
European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis), a rare native species of Latvia. – Photo: Sergejs Čičagovs
In 2010, a Turtle Sanctuary was opened in Riga Zoo's Quarantine station, inviting people to take their unwanted pet turtles to the sanctuary rather than release them into the wild. In 2003–2017, a total of 413 turtles of various exotic species were admitted to the Zoo. Most of them were Red-eared Sliders of various subspecies. The Turtle Sanctuary has helped educate people, as well as find new homes to the turtles arriving at the Zoo.
Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), an exotic and potentially invasive species for Latvia. – Photo: Elīna Gulbe
Each spring since 1952 Riga Zoo organizes Bird Day with Woodpecker's Workshop where visitors learn how to make nest boxes for different cavity nesting birds from materials supplied by the Zoo. Every year several hundreds of nest boxes for small cavity nesting birds (tits, flycatchers, redstarts) and starlings are made. Each year we also highlight the conservation problems of some rare species, and nest boxes constructed for this species are set up within protected nature areas in Latvia supporting the research and conservation of these species in the wild. These highlighted species have included Common Kestrel (2006), Goldeneye (2008), Barn Owl (2009), Ural Owl (2010, 2019), Tawny Owl (2011, 2012), European Roller (1013), Hoopoe (2014), Little Owl (2017), Boreal Owl (2018) as well as Forest Dormouse (2007, 2015, 2016). Among Bird Day supporters were Nature Conservation Agency, Latvian Ornithological Society and Latvian Owl Research Society.
Līdaka L., Graubica D., Lielkalns M. 2015. Emotion and event – two important tools in education and communication work in Riga Zoo. Poster Report/How to inspire people to act – turning education theory into action. EZE Conference, Lisbon, 10.03.2015.
Bird Day at the Zoo. – Photo: Elīna Gulbe
Bird Day at the Zoo. – Photo: Elīna Gulbe
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