Following on from our ‘Animal Rescue’ series from RIAS, Tomorrow sent Vaughan Willmore to visit the Algarve’s wildlife hospital to find out more. 

It’s impossible to imagine the pain and the terror he must have been feeling, his fragile little body damaged by the impact of a motor vehicle. And now here he was, shaking and scared in the most unusual of surroundings. How could this poor little beech marten know he’d arrived at RIAS? But, thanks to their expertise, love and nurturing, his miraculous four-month journey of recovery was about to begin. 

Located in the beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park near Olhão, the Centre for the Recovery and Research of Wild Animals (RIAS) is the Algarve’s (and southern Alentejo’s) only wildlife rehabilitation and research centre. And what fantastic work they do.

Vera Marques has worked for RIAS for four years. Born in the Alentejo, she studied animal biology in the Algarve before moving to Lisbon for her master’s degree. When the chance came to return to the Algarve and help local wildlife, it was the opportunity she’s been looking for to put her skills into practice by helping local wildlife. Vera is joined in her work by six other staff members and four volunteers. It’s a talented and enthusiastic team, led by co-ordinator Fábia Azevedo.

There’s been a wildlife centre on the site for nearly twenty-five years. It was only in 2009 that it came under the control of the conservation association, Aldeia. At this point, it took on a broader remit, focusing on not only the rehabilitation of wild animals but also the investigation of risk-related factors (such as causes of death) and environmental education. 

Today, RIAS receives more than 3,000 injured animals a year. Wounded birds, reptiles (chameleons and terrapins, especially), and mammals (hedgehogs, foxes and bats) are all frequent visitors. Thanks to RIAS’s fantastic work, the vast majority of them go on to make a full recovery. 

Education is another crucial factor. Vera and her colleagues regularly hold classes and visit schools. “One of the most rewarding aspects,” said Vera, “is when an adult brings an animal to us after having been advised to do so by their children. It makes me feel like our message is really getting through. Also, when I ask schoolchildren what kind of wildlife we look after, and they say things like foxes, eagles, and storks. A few years ago, they would have been saying lions and zebras! It’s fantastic to see our messages are getting out there.” 

RIAS is heavily reliant upon financial donations from the local public and businesses. Donations of animal feed are also gratefully received. The RIAS website includes many examples of how we can help. Volunteering to work at the shelter is one option, but please be aware that a minimum of one month is required (there’s so much to learn!). In addition to financial donations, you can also sponsor the recovery of a specific animal, something which gives you the opportunity to witness first-hand the recovery of your animal. 

You can also donate expertise. For example, if you’re an electrician, joiner, painter or plumber, why not offer your services one day a month? A helping hand is always welcome. 

Vaughan has donated his fee from this article to RIAS. 

What should you do if you find an injured animal?  

If you can catch it, try to do so carefully, avoiding noise and unnecessary handling. Use a towel or blanket if you can, as removing visual stimuli can help keep it calm. Place the animal in a cardboard box with small holes. If you don’t have a box, wrap the towel around the animal to limit its movements and protect you and the animal. If possible, take the animal directly to RIAS or to your local GNR station, all of which are equipped to receive injured animals. 

RIAS bank details: 

Caixa Geral de Depósitos (Olhão Branch) 

IBAN: PT50003505550004877083028  

BIC / SWIFT Code: CGDIPTPL 

For more information about RIAS’ work: 

rias.aldeia@gmail.com 

+351 927 659 313 

www.facebook.com/rias.olhao

rias-aldeia.blogspot.com