Estonian wildlife showcase at Elistvere

  • 2008-09-18
  • By Marge Tubalkain-Trell

Animal farm Estonian style

TALLINN - Elistvere is a small and ordinary village quite far from Tallinn. So what makes thousands of people each year organize to go there with groups and families? The wildlife park, which is one of a kind in Estonia.
As I stopped the car in Elistvere, I noticed how empty the place was 's just a couple of cars and one small group near the gate. Then I went in, looking for the changes the State Forest Management Centre has made since it took over the park. If there were any, I didn't notice.

The first animals I came upon were rabbits 's not a surprise when you remember the park specializes in animals that actually live in Estonia. One rabbit had created a strong friendship with a dove; they shared a cage so close to each other that I didn't notice the bird at first.

Next were deer eating grass and looking as though nothing could bother them. They were the polar opposite of the foxes, which were running around in their cages so nervously, so incessantly, that I felt sorry for them. People often feel sorry for lions in cages, but lions are usually just asleep, while the foxes run around their confines, constantly searching for a way to freedom. But the path went on and so did I.

My visit to that park didn't end without a surprise. I was nearly at the end of my walk, getting ready to leave, when I spotted two enormous European buffalo. They looked so big that I thought matadors must surely be crazy to fight with bulls. I'd give the victory to a bull straight away 's not that bulls and buffalo have very much in common.

Besides all of the above, there is a house for rats and mice. Like everything in the park, it's small but cute. Elistvere has various nature paths for those who want to go and explore the world on their own.
The park left me with a positive feeling. Yes, the animals were all common and domestic pigs and rabbits, but the idea behind the park is good. Each animal has its own natural environment and the cages were relatively large. The only thing that nearly ruined the visit were those unhappy foxes I mentioned above. The Tallinn zoo isn't bad, but in my opinion Elistvere is slightly better, although there aren't any monkeys or tigers.

The park is very popular among children, who make up 85 percent of the park's visitors. But I think adults enjoy it as well. It's more than just seeing animals you've already seen; it's about discovering animals in their different natural environments.