Thursday, 3 May 2018

Dutch rewilding experiment sparks backlash as thousands of animals starve


A scheme to rewild marshland east of Amsterdam has been savaged by an official report and sparked public protest after deer, horses and cattle died over the winter

Patrick Barkhamin Oostvaardersplassen
Fri 27 Apr 2018 10.41 BSTLast modified on Fri 27 Apr 2018 22.00 BST

It is known as the Dutch Serengeti, a bold project to rewild a vast tract of land east of Amsterdam. But a unique nature reserve where red deer, horses and cattle roam free on low-lying marsh reclaimed from the sea has been savaged by an official report after thousands of animals starved.

In a blow to the rewilding vision of renowned ecologists, a special committee has criticised the authorities for allowing populations of large herbivores to rise unchecked at Oostvaardersplassen, causing trees to die and wild bird populations to decline.

It follows growing anger in the Netherlands over the slaughter of more than half Oostvaardersplassen’s red deer, Konik horses and Heck cattle because they were starving. After a run of mild winters, the three species numbered 5,230 on the fenced 5,000-hectare reserve. Following a harsher winter, the population is now just 1,850. Around 90% of the dead animals were shot by the Dutch state forestry organisation, which manages the reserve, before they could die of starvation.

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