Seal, elk, brown bear, many species of deer, lynx, grey wolf, red fox – once even a lion – plus an abundant birdlife, dozens of freshwater fish species and of course many butterflies & other insects are all animal residents of Ruokolahti. Wolves, lynx and brown bears live in the forests around us and even visit our back yards, but of no threat to humans, unless you go disturbing them. Domestic animals are in danger though - so we try to act accordingly.
A LION...?!? In Finland? Well yes, anything is possible in Ruokolahti :-)
In the summer of 1992 several people saw a lion and its tracks in a Ruokolahti forest near the Russian border, and it became the talk of Finland for months and a hit in global newspapers too. Then the lion just disappeared. Even today no-one knows how it got here and where it went? It is suspected that it was an escapee from a Russian circus, and that it also returned over the border. Perhaps it just wanted a little getaway in the western world...? People from all over Finland still associate Ruokolahti with this lion, so we named it Elsa and built 4 marble lion statues that now guard the marketplace and all three road junctions leading into Ruokolahti centre. Lion is after all the heraldic animal on Finland’s coat of Arms.
But the most famous of all Saimaa area animals is undoubtedly the Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis, Finnish: saimaannorppa). It is among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 400 individuals (2020). The only existing population of these rare freshwater seals is found in Lake Saimaa, Finland – hence the name. Even if extremely rare, they move around a lot. With luck, you too can spot one of these beautiful animals when canoeing or rowing on the lake.
A bear cub
A saimaa ringed seal and pup
A lioness :-)
Wetland suitable for many birds
An eastern baton blue butterfly (Scolitantides vicrama). One of the rarest butterflies in Finland