Correctly addressed asylum 

    Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

    The idea is taking shape. For the time being, the idea is in the forester’s head, however, in a short while, it will become a reality. Just as every aviary, enclosure and eventually the entire Animal Rehabilitation Center in Napromek has become a reality. 

    From the very entrance to the centre, we are greeted by the voices of animals. From the enclosures comes the barking of a roe deer, and the grunting of a wild boar, and after a while, our attention is being grabbed by the quacking of storks, the calling of a buzzard or the hooting of a tawny owl. If we are lucky, we can hear the howling or whimpering of a wolf. 

    Although, as Lech Serwotka, the founder and forester in charge of the sanctuary, says, our luck means the animal’s misfortune. “We are a hospital for wild animals, they come to us for a reason,” the forester of Napromek forestry stresses.

    It is for these unlucky animals, victims of traffic accidents or human carelessness that the forester created the hospital.

    “Before Napromek was established, there was no specialized facility for wild animals in the whole country. We were one of the first such places. Today, there are several similar places in the National Forests,”

    he explains.

    List of recovered animals

    Officially, the centre has been in operation since 2001, when permission was obtained from the General Director of Environmental Protection, but even before that, battered or sick wild animals were brought to the forestry headquarters.

    “Law and life are different kettles of fish. After all, no forester would leave an animal in need. Each of us, in addition to the basic activity of breeding and caring for the forest, also has a mission to fulfil. Mine is to help animals, without them I can’t imagine the forest,”

    Serwotka confesses.

    Hedgehogs, roe deer and wild boar are the first on the hospital’s registry. Over time, the list has been growing. Nowadays, dozens of species are listed there. According to the meticulously kept records, in addition to the aforementioned deer or hedgehogs, the centre has hospitalized raccoons, foxes, woodpeckers of various species, herons, hawks, sparrowhawks, storks, kingfishers, otters and mouflons, among others. Throughout the year, more than a hundred mammals and birds receive help. 

    Currently, there are about 40 wards, among them are tawny owls, kestrels, storks and, of course, forest mammals. Each sick animal has a patient card and, for the duration of its stay in the hospital, is given a name. Thus, the medical records kept by foresters and the vets cooperating with them show Basia, Kasia, Jasiu, Dziubek, Zofia or Uszaty, as each patient requires an individual approach. 

    “Cats, dogs or even farm animals can be helped, while those living in forests or meadows are a problem. Providing help to a white-tailed eagle or a fox is different from rescuing a dog or a cat,”

    the Napromek founder explains. 

    Return to the wild 

    Animals apart from expert veterinary assistance must have a space suited to their needs. 

    “When animals come to us, it’s important that they don’t get used to people during rehabilitation, and the treatment process should include an element of wildness. We have to do everything to give the animal a chance to return to its natural environment, so contact with the animal is limited to the necessary minimum,”

    Serwotka explains.

    For this reason, special aviaries for Accipitriformes, marsh and water birds, as well as enclosures for deer, wild boar, or roe deer, have been set up in the Napromek area (which covers an area of about 1 hectare). Elk, otters, or storks can count on the place too. 

    Forester Serwotka is usually assisted in taking care of the patients by two employees of the forestry division. Each of them keeps contact with the resident animals to a minimum. According to the forester, a hare or hedgehog won’t get attached to its caretaker, but the situation is different for roe deer, wild boar, or deer, which quickly break the barrier of fear of humans and easily get used to people.

    Fortunately, up to about 70 per cent of patients return to the wild. Permanent residents who cannot cope in the forest due to permanent disability also find a suitable place in Napromek. For storks with damaged or amputated wings, nests have been built directly on the ground or on small elevations, so that the unlucky white-black creatures can enter them independently.

    Among the patients are also black storks, less common relatives of white storks. Our interlocutor remembered one in particular – a young stork that was cruelly mutilated. 

    “The bird had one-third of its beak cut off. I suspect that someone took it out of the nest, and when the stork was older and, perhaps, began to pinch painfully, its beak was trimmed,” 

    Lech Serwotka says bitterly. 

    The weakened and battered stork, after long treatment and rehabilitation, was rescued. However, not every creature is so lucky. 

    “When adopting animals, we do not divide them into better and worse. The only thing we are guided by is their condition. Unfortunately, sometimes it is so serious that we have to decide to shorten the suffering,” 

    the forester explains. 

    That’s why the most severely affected victims of accidents, such as deer that are in danger of having their legs amputated, or deer with a broken spine, are put down. “This is always a very difficult decision and is made after consultation with a doctor,” he added.

    Wolf refuge

    The centre in Napromek is the only place where a special aviary for wolves has been built. The facility has had its doors open to these protected predators since 2015. Since then, seven patients of the species have been treated in Napromek. Among them were the famous wolves named Kampinos, Napromek, Miko and Harda. The latter wolf was unable to return to the wild, so after being released she was caught and taken to the Bialowieza National Park enclosure. 

    The aviary, which is a separate large piece of land overgrown with shrubs and trees, is fenced with a low-voltage live wire, because, as the forester explains, the treated predators, as soon as they felt better, tried various methods to escape into the forest. The enclosure is also monitored, which allows for observing the convalescents’ behaviour around the clock. No wolves currently reside in the forest refuge. 

    Wild ‘patients’

    Running the centre, where both predators and herbivores find help, is expensive. The largest part of the amount is spent on veterinary care and food. On the shopping list, there are chicken hearts (last year patients ate an average of about 180 kg of hearts per month), whole chicken or pork. Of course, one can’t forget the herbivore diet either – kilograms of carrots, apples, hay, or a ton of wheat. Food or medicine, however, are items that can be easily counted. 

    Meanwhile, how do you add up the commitment of foresters? For them, caring for animals is a side occupation. 

    “Sometimes, while feeding the little ones, I receive a phone call from a timber recipient, or a meeting with a forest service company, I rush to prepare food and medicines. Taking care of the animals from each of us requires round-the-clock availability, as the cubs need to be fed every two hours. I also sometimes drove at night to a car accident with a deer or roe deer,” 

    Serwotka says, the foster father of the residents.

    The prosaic aspect of life and the notorious lack of time do not discourage Lech Serwotka from making more plans. One of them is to create an aviary for sick and injured bears in Napromek. For now, the idea is clarifying in the forester’s imagination and slowly taking shape on paper as a plan. However, as our interlocutor points out before the first furry residents get there, a lot of work awaits him with these smaller and bigger unlucky creatures from the wild.

    Where to seek help?

    Piotrkow Forestry 
    Forest Educational Settlement in Kolo
    Koło 115
    Sulejów 
    tel.: 44 64 51 840; 694 408 878

    Plock Forestry
    Miszewo Forest Administration Region
    Miszewo Murowane
    tel.: 24 26 27 774

    Krynki Forestry
    Leszczana Forest Administration Region
    Studzionka 3
    Szudziałowotel.: 85 72 29 640

    Wejherowo Forestry
    Sobieńczyce Forest Administration Region
    gm. Krokowa
    tel.: 58 67 29 801

    Forestry Ambulance by przy Katowice Forestry
    Kościuszki 70
    Mikołów
    tel.: 605 100 179 

    Olsztyn Forestry
    Dąbrówka Wielka 29
    Dywity
    tel.: 89 51 30 391

    Olsztynek Forestry
    Napromek Forest Administration Regiontel.: 89 51 92 003

    Grodziec Forestry
    Leśna 50
    Grodziectel.: 63 24 85 027

    State Forests / press material
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