Konik horse in the meadows of Dunduri. Photo by: A.Liepa
Tukums parish, Tukums county
Co-ordinates (of the viewing tower): lat=56.829911, long=23.400965
The meadows of Dunduri, after renewal of the River Slampe (see more here
), have become wet, floodplain meadows which overflow on a regular basis. In order that the meadows, which are rich in birds
, not grow over, regular management is necessary for them – mowing and pasturing. The wild cows and Konik horses take care of this in the meadows of Dunduri, they live here throughout the year in a pasture-ground of 120 ha.
Wild cows in the meadows of Dunduri. Photo by: A. Liepa
Wild cows and Konik horses – managers of the meadows
In October 2004 the World Wildlife Fund with the support of the Large Herbivorous Foundation delivered 15 wild cows from Belgium to Ķemeri National Park, and in August 2005 - 10 Konik horses from Pape. 27 horses have been received as a gift from the Netherlands in January 2010. The animals propagate and their number grows. They stay in the meadows of Dunduri throughout a year.
Wild cows and Konik horses are typical herbivorous animals. They need open landscape and pasture rich in grass. Wild cows pluck off the grass, while horses - gnaw off low. In winter these animals feed with the grass non-eaten in summer, bramble-bush and offspring of trees. If necessary, they are fed additionally.
Pasture lands of wild cows are especially favourable for such species of animals and plants which develop in grass not plucked off completely. But the grasslands gnawed low by horses are inhabited by other species. The presence of both herbivorous animals forms the environment to which large nature diversity is characteristic.
The history of formation of species
Natural meadows have been maintained historically by large herbivorous animals – wild cows and horses. The last real wild cow Bos primigenius died in Poland in 1627, and wild horse - tarpan – in Moscow Zoo in 1887. There are no direct descendants to these animals, however they are ancestors of cows used in agriculture Bos taurius and horses of varieties which began to form several thousand years ago.
In 1920s to 30s, the German Heck brothers started crossing the varieties of European cows with the intention to obtain animals which would be like the extinct wild cows and could be capable of surviving under conditions of the wild. The variety created was called after them – Heck cattle (now also – Auroxen), in Latvian - taurgovs. These animals are not identical to the perished wild cows, however they are externally alike and endowed with many qualities essential for wildlife. Wild cows can use food of poor nutrients, they are tough against unfavourable weather conditions, they have well organised herd structure in order to defend against predators (wolves). Horses of Konik Polski variety also have these qualities, which like wild cows are approximated to their ancestors as much as possible by "feedback" selection, in this case - to the extinct tarpans. Both varieties are used for pasture of grasslands in the protected nature territories in Europe, because they are the most appropriate for fulfilment of the ecological “task" of the extinct wild cows and tarpans.
In Latvia the programme for renewal of large herbivorous animals was commenced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1996.
The viewing tower and kurgan help to look out over the meadows.
You may park your car in a parking lot by the viewing tower.
Information stands help you get familiar with the meadows of Dunduri.
The viewing tower is not available to visitors in wheelchairs.
The slope of kurgan is comparatively abrupt, however visitors in wheelchairs may drive up with the help of companions.
Access to meadows by public transport is rather inconvenient. You may go by train from Riga to Jelgava; from Jelgava take a Jelgava-Tukums bus in the direction of Tukums until the bus stop “Lancenieki”. It is 4 km from the bus stop to the tower.
The best way to visit this bird observation place is by car, by which you may easily drive up to the tower itself where there is a parking lot. Driving from Riga, take Ventspils motorway (A10) and drive 50 km from Riga centre until the turn to Slampe (Slampe 9) where you turn left on the gravel road. Drive 5.3 km to the T-type crossing and then turn left. Then after exactly 1 km, turn again left passing by the farm of Melnragi. The next 7 km leads through the Throat of Melnragi and the meadows of Dunduri.
The first bird observation platform, so called “kurgan” – an artificial dike made especially for this purpose – is located in the end of the Throat of Melnragi at the bridge across the River Slampe. The other place suitable for observation is a viewing tower made of wood which is located within seeing distance in the central part of the meadows of Dunduri.
Regulations for staying
Presence of visitors in the enclosed territory is prohibited.
Attention – electricity – do not touch fencing (electric fences).
It is prohibited to feed and disturb wild horses and cows on the pasture-ground.
Certain information regarding this place for observing of animals may change from time to time. If you have determined an inconsistency of the information, please contact the Ķemeri National Park Administration of the Nature Conservation Agency, phone +371 67730078, e-mail: email@example.com