Öster Malma Castle and Wildlife Park, which I visited as part of a familiarization tour organized by Visit Sörmland and Visit Sweden, includes a beautiful estate house and a large wildlife park. It is more modest (read: smaller) than the others we visited, like Gripsholm, Nynäs and Sparreholms, but was nevertheless interesting.
Built in the 1600s, Öster Malma’s original painted wallpaper from the mid-1700s shows hunting scenes. The ceiling paintings are also quite spectacular.
Downstairs in the basement of the main house is a restaurant serving local game.
That leads me to why you shouldn’t go to Öster Malma if you are an animals rights advocate. Or if you have trouble with seeing mounted heads and animal skulls on the walls. The house positively overflows with them. And with animal skins and hunting weapons and every other sort of hunting-related article you can think of.
Why all the hunting paraphernalia? It’s a contradictory manner of managing the manor.
[Sorry, I couldn’t resist punning! As I wrote this series on all the estates, castles and manor houses I managed to see in a three-day tour, the WordPress spellchecker kept asking me about the word “manor.” Every time I typed it, it wanted to change it to “manner.”]
Hunting and Wildlife Management
But getting back to the point, Öster Malma is owned by Svenska Jagareforbundet, the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management. To me, that’s a contradiction in itself. This group is made up of people who like to go and kill animals in the wild. At the same time, they are dedicated to wildlife management. Öster Malma hosts the Öster Malma Game Management School, where they’ve trained more than 300 wildlife managers since its establishment in 1947.
I see that wildlife management is necessary. If you just hunt and don’t keep the numbers of animals up, eventually they’ll be gone, and you won’t be able to hunt anymore, never mind the damage you cause to the ecosystem. At the same time, if you have limited land and the animal numbers go up too high, you get starvation in the winters, as has happened here in the Netherlands. Or, as in parts of Africa, you get encroachment on farmland necessary to feed the human population.
I understand the need for wildlife management, but the enjoyment of hunting itself is something I’ve never been able to get my head around. I can’t really criticize, though, since I eat meat, including game, quite happily. To each his own, I guess.
Öster Malma Estate
The estate is home to many endemic species; in particular, moose, fallow deer, red deer and roe deer. In the summer months, when most visitors go to Öster Malma, the animals stay in summer enclosures—fenced-in fields—to make it easy to get a glimpse. We saw a few caged bird species as well.
In September (rutting season), the park closes. Outside of the summer months, the animals live in winter enclosures: much bigger tracts of land—wooded acreage, mostly—where they can behave as they would in the wild.
So Öster Malma is a nature park dedicated to conservation. At the same time, it’s a hunting lodge, a school, a hunting museum, a zoo, a restaurant, a hotel, and a venue for events like conferences and weddings.
If you’re particularly sensitive about animals—the vegetarians in our tour group were visibly uncomfortable, though they enjoyed tasty alternatives to the venison we carnivores ate—don’t go into the main house. Instead, stroll around the 1200 hectares of park and try to spot some deer—alive, not on your plate. Öster Malma’s lovely site, on picturesque Lake Malmasjön, is worth a look in any case.
Disclosure: As I stated above, I visited Öster Malma as a guest of Visit Sörmland and Visit Sweden. Nevertheless, all opinions are my own.