Aleksei is Estonia’s most famous zoologist and ethologist, a big animal friend and a nature lover. He has worked in the Tallinn zoo for almost 50 years and knows the life of its mammals, birds and insects inside and out. Aleksei was born in Russia, Moscow and moved to Estonia with his family when he was three months old. Tallinn is still his hometown.
I was born in a city, live in a city, and have studied, worked and started a family in a city. But I have loved nature for as long as I can remember and have always been fascinated by animals and plants. Nature is all around us, take my breast pocket, for example – if I look very carefully, I will find a mushroom spore somewhere in there for sure.
I remember clearly when I first started to be curious about nature. We were living in Tallinn, Nõmme district, near Valdeku street, it was June and I wasn’t even five years old. I noticed a blueish glossy dung beetle walking around on moss in our pine garden and my dad told me, “Look Alex, it is all grown up, even if it is small!” I still remember this moment of realisation, “Yes, of course – all grown up, even if small, because it knows exactly where it is going.”
The question “where is it going” has intrigued me ever since. I always go to the nature with an open mind. I go to connect, observe, discover and notice everything around me. I never forget my encounters with animals. Outside the city, in a forest, bushes, bog or beach, I like to enjoy a cup of strong black coffee with plant based milk and sugar. When I was working on the field as a young man, life was not as comfortable as to be able to make coffee in a pine forest on a Primus Lite+ hiking stove in a matter of minutes - this is truly wonderful!
Returning to everyday life is equally important. I need at least a couple of hours to readjust to the city life and I relish these moments. Everything I experienced, everyone I met, it all starts passing through my eyes and echoing in my ears like a film. I like to write down or sketch these images out into a notebook. I have been doing this since I was a child. I don’t have time to snap photos or scribble notes in the forest. There I just want to take it all in.