Atgal į gamtą – Back to the wild

Lets welcome Atgal i gamta – “Back to the nature” as our main collaborator in postcard Set 1 – Loss of flight. Together we will rise into the summer air and dive down into the beautiful world of the Common Swift.

Atgal į gamtą is a small non-profit organization rescuing injured birds and small mammals to release them back into the wild of Lithuania. They also educate about proper and necessary animal treatment so you can do your best for biodiversity.

For more information on ‘Atgal į gamtą’, their projects, and birds, visit their social media:

We met online with Atgal i gamta’s initiator Viktorija to talk about animal protection and their work:

Hi and thank you for joining us! You are already working on ‘Atgal į gamtą’ for some years, how did you start it and what motivated you?

I was interested in animals and wildlife since childhood. I was watching wildlife shows like Wildlife SOS on Animal Planet and would get very inspired to learn more about animals.

I went on to study biology at university and had done some practical field work with owl research and bird ringing. Seeing wild birds up close was fascinating!

However, I think that having experienced upsetting cases with injured animals myself is what drove me towards the field of wildlife rehabilitation the most. I’ve found injured birds several times and wasn’t able to help them – the vets would not want to treat wildlife and I did not know how to help those animals.

After university, I went to volunteer at the one of UK’s wildlife rehabilitation centres for a few months. When I came back, I wanted to try to help injured animals in Lithuania and established an organisation “Atgal į gamtą”, which means “Back to the Wild”. It is our third year now.

I read that people can call you for help, how are you organizing the shelters and doctors? Do you have many helpers?

A few at the moment. Before this year, a couple of volunteers and I were helping animals from our homes and gardens. A month ago we’ve made a very big step – rented a separate space for the animals in our care, so we will be able to invite more volunteers. The vets do the more complicated or specific procedures, like surgeries, x-rays. We do the rest – giving medication, feeding, cleaning and rehabilitating animals back into the wild.

What would be the most important thing you want people to know about wild life protection?

In nature, everything is connected through subtle webs. Extinction of one single species leaves a significant trace. We are just one species inhabiting our planet and should respect other life forms and their habitats.

Are your projects concentrated mostly in Lithuania or are you performing some international collaborations? What information exchange do you have with other groups?

Our main activity at the moment is to help injured birds in Vilnius, Lithuania. However, I am enormously thankful to have two vets from UK’s wildlife rehabilitation centre helping us by sharing their knowledge and tips about various wildlife cases.

We’ve helped to organize one international operation that was about relocating a tame wolf and dog hybrid into a permanent sanctuary in Germany. The animal was kept as a pet in bad conditions and a suitable permanent place for her couldn’t be found in Lithuania. She is currently living in a wolf sanctuary in Schwarzwald and looks really happy in the videos that the sanctuary is sharing!

Can you remember an animal whose story has touched you especially and also tell us why?

It was a juvenile owl, that was brought up by people. Sadly, a lot of wild animals being hand-reared by kind meaning people become too tame and have very slim chances surviving in the wild. When growing up they don’t see they own species and become too habituated to people.

This owlet was quite tame, but we’ve decided to introduce him to other juvenile owls of his species and see how he would do – would he recognize them or would he fly towards people? After a few weeks in the aviary he has wildened up and later was successfully released with another juvenile!

It is a shame to see healthy wild animals have to stay in captivity only because they are too tame to be back in the wild. I was really happy for this little one!

What excites me is the understanding that the creatures that come into our care are wild and free – it is a privilege to get a glimpse into their lives and help them.

There is a lot of talk about species decline, so we are wondering how that affects your work? Do you notice more injured animals and is there a species that is more affected than others?

As a rule, most wildlife that comes into rehabilitation centres was affected by human activity. Windows, roads, trash, power lines, our pets – it can all cause harm to wildlife and in terms of evolution are very recent challenges. Wild animals have not yet learned to deal with these new dangers and in result, they become injured.

For example, migratory small birds are affected by the tall glass buildings, standing in their migration routes. Birds of prey that usually hunt in meadows, get hit by cars when gliding and looking for prey.

Common swifts have become almost exclusively city birds and they are having a hard time finding nesting spaces. They used to nest in tall trees wild hollow cavities, but because of deforestation and lack of old trees, they can’t find many natural cavities anymore. New buildings don’t have cavities swifts can nest in and old building are being renovated and swift’s nests destroyed.

The next postcard set story will be about the common swift, what do you like about it? Do you think it is a good example?

I find them quite extraordinary, but also a good example of nature’s fragility. Swifts are quite unique birds and are amazingly well adapted to the life on wings. They eat, sleep and even mate in flight. Swift’s can stay airborne without landing for up to 10 months.  However, when in care, swifts cannot eat or drink unassisted – because they have adapted to do this only in flight. During the time swift’s stay with us, we have to force feed them insects, give them drops of water from syringes. When on land, they are absolutely dependent on us. But when back in the air, they become these amazing fliers and bolt into the sky with such speed!

Is there a way to support you in a financial, promotive, or physical way? Do you have a patreon or other way to help you?

We can carry out this voluntary work only with the help of donations from kind people. We don’t receive other funding. Any donation – no matter how small – means a lot and helps to treat injured birds!

A simple way to donate is via PayPal page which is: paypal.me/atgaligamta.

Also, we accept volunteers to help with daily tasks: animal care, transportation or fundraising. You can contact us via Facebook message or email.