A group from the Rotary Club Estoi Palace International paid a visit to the wildlife rehabilitation and investigation centre for the Ria Formosa, RIAS, near Olhão on October 29.
Originally established in the 1990s as a bird rehabilitation centre, RIAS has been operating in its present form since October 2009. Its main objectives are the rehabilitation of injured and debilitated wildlife, investigating the risk factors for their conservation and educating the public regarding the importance of the biodiversity and the environment.
One of the RIAS’ employees, Thijs, introduced the group to the work they carry out, explaining that around 70% of the creatures they deal with have been injured due to human actions. Many birds that arrive at RIAS have been shot, trapped or have accidentally eaten fishing hooks and wires.
Katrina Gale from the Rotary Club said: “As we toured the outdoor bird pens, we were fortunate to observe the arrival of a black eagle that had been found exhausted and unable to fly. He had been brought to RIAS to recuperate. Later, we noticed a solitary flamingo in a pen with a mirror attached to the fence. RIAS staff explained that the bird had been found in Portimão and was recuperating. Since flamingos live in large flocks, a single flamingo will become stressed and unhappy on its own and may stop eating. Placing a mirror in the bird’s pen fools the flamingo into thinking it has a companion, reducing its stress levels, so that it will eat and thus speed up its rehabilitation.”
RIAS deals with over 1,000 animals annually, mainly birds but also reptiles, amphibians, bats, foxes and badgers. In the summer, RIAS can receive up to 50 birds and animals a day, stretching their resources to the limit.
The facilities at RIAS, and much of the medical equipment, are over 20 years old and need updating but, in these strained economic times, the staff make do with what they have. “We were told by staff that if we encounter an exhausted or injured wild bird or animal, we should call for help right away. Waiting to see if the animal might recover on its own could cost the animal its only chance for survival,” said Katrina.
As the group prepared to leave, RIAS staff had a surprise for them. They had arranged for the Rotarians to watch as a rehabilitated kestrel was released back into the wild. The kestrel named Rotary was tossed into the air and the members watched as she flew higher and higher into the sky as she came to terms with her freedom. One of the members suggested it must be sad to see the bird leave, but Thijs said that for anyone involved in wildlife rehabilitation seeing the animals return to the wild is the biggest reward they can have.
RIAS is located at Quinta de Marim, Olhão and is on call for emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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