A Day at the Rīga Zoo(dārzs)The Mežaparks Stop on the No. 11 Tram

Entrance to the Rīga Zoo

An unexpected break from rehearsal! After a brief respite from work and worry just after arriving, our choir's ensuing preparations for our upcoming concert had been nothing short of brutal in the summer heat wave! It was yet another hot day, but we determined to make the best of it. Silvija was feeling a bit under the weather, so my choir partner Barbara and I headed out to the Zoodārzs (Zoological Garden), leaving Silvija back at the apartment, basking in the cross-winds of multiple fans operating at maximum speed.

It was a treat — especially for Barbara, who volunteers her time at New York's Central Park Zoo.

The zoo map suggests walking tours taking two or three hours. The heat kept us from wandering too far off the main path — but by the time we were done, our feet felt like we had been trudging for days!

In case you're wondering about "Strig POLIGRAFIJA," in the top right corner of the map, we later uncovered² they provides for the zoo's printing needs, often charging only half of their actual expenses.

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Pink flamingos at the zoo

All of the Suddenly I was in a space and time warp, back in tropical Bermuda. (Apparently it wasn't taking long for dehydration and heat exhaustion to set in!) There were the pink flamingos, standing still and regal. I kept waiting for a wizened, sprightly, uniformed trainer, complete with baton, to come out and start directing the flock, marching in formation. Alas, no such luck this time!) [Click on the picture to see it full size]

"Not bad for a little Latvian zoo!" I thought to myself. As the day progressed there were equal parts of surprise and some sadness, as only some of the animals have newer, friendlier enclosures. There were completely modern exhibits, rivalling anything you might find in Europe, America, or "down under." Then there were buildings and enclosures, still in use, which (in some cases, along with its inhabitant!) had seen the Soviet occupation come and go, unperturbed and untouched — except for the (perhaps) occasional coat of paint. The good news is they're making progress!

A little background before we commence our tour... The Zoological Garden was founded in 1912 and was the first zoo in the Baltic States. Its area covers 16.4 hectares (that's a bit over 40 acres). Its current "collection" numbers about 2,200 animals of 400 different species. Of these species, 41 are listed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red Book of Endangered and Extinct Species.

Some quick notes:

  • In July, 2001, we were in Latvia with the New York Latvian Concert Choir to perform a concert of Bruno Skulte's music and record a CD, as part of the Riga 800th birthday and Song Festival celebration.
  • Our curiosity about the elephant's identity and age (our last zoo page) finally got the best of us, prompting an E-mail to the Riga Zoo nearly a year after our visit (that is, July a year later). We shortly thereafter received a gracious and detailed response in person from Guna Vītola, the Zoo's collection curator! She answered our questions, provided us some corrections, and updated us on goings on at the Zoo, along with some pictures. Many thanks!
  • At the time we heard from Ms. Vītola, the Zoo's web site was still under construction. However, it's been up and running now for quite some time, accessible in Latvian, English, and Russian. You can find it at: www.rigazoo.lv

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