What is Oostvaardersplassen?
Oostvaardersplassen is a nature reserve which is described as a ‘one-of-a-kind’ reserve, not just in the Netherlands, but in Europe. It is a natural swampy area, which contains ponds, reeds and grass. It’s a fenced area and has been known as the place where nature is undisturbed and wild animals can roam.
In Oostvaardersplassen there are a variety of animals, including (but not limited to), foxes, hares, red deer, seas eagles, Konik horses, bats, butterflies and heck cattle. It’s a beautiful area, which is popular to visit.
Where is Oostvaardersplassen?
Oostvaardersplassen is located between Lelystad and Almere, in the municipality of Lelystad. Oostvaardersplassen is divided into the ‘dry’ area and the ‘wet’ area.
What has happened at Oostvaardersplassen?
A Dutch ‘rewilding experiment’ took place at Oostvaardersplassen. This meant that wild animals were placed in the area and left to their own devices. But what is rewilding? I’ll give you the lowdown. Rewilding is basically the act of restoring an area of land, to its natural ecological state. This means that wild animals are reintroduced to the area, that once may have disappeared, due to human influences. It’s basically a way to have areas that aren’t influenced by us, and means that we can have more wild animals in our area.
Sound like a good idea? In this instance, think again. Oostvaardersplassen and the Dutch state forestry organisation are under fire, for the chaos that has been happening there during this past winter (you may have been following this story). But as the reserve is in general, unregulated (in the sense that there won’t be any interference), the animals were left to multiply. That, along with the very cold and unpredictable winter, meant that a lot of the land died. This led to thousands of animals dying of starvation at the Oostvaardersplassen.
Eternal Treblinka: Animals and the Holocaust https://t.co/1yOUajoKlQ #Oostvaardersplassen was only created in 1968 when an inland sea was drained for two new cities. An industrial zone turned into a marshy haven as it lay undeveloped during the 1970s.”@guardian @patrick_barkham pic.twitter.com/Ozlh0du8S6
— OVP NEWS (@HELPOVP) April 28, 2018
Protests and anger at the Oostvaardersplassen
It was taken so badly that people were tossing bales of hay over the fence, in order to feed the animals. The horrendous and shocking images that emerged of the animals starving, understandably led to an uproar, with an official report slamming the experiment and protesters flocking to online platforms and to the place itself. (Check the reviews on Google to see what people are saying about it). The nature reserve is also being described as ‘an Auschwitz for animals.’
So, what went wrong at the Oostvaarderplassen?
Over half of the Konik horses, Heck cattle and red deer were slaughtered, because they were found starving to death. To put this into perspective: 5,230 of these 3 species were found (after a few mild winters) – this was then cut to 1,850 after the cold winter this year, due to deaths. 90% of these deaths were from the forestry organisation, who shot them due to their starvation.
The weather is impossible to predict, meaning that the landscape was not prepared for a cold winter. It’s wrong to assume that the landscape would not die. That really demonstrates the importance of monitoring the levels of animals at all points. Of course, whilst it sounds nice to be able to have an area ‘untouched’, in situations such as these, the idea of placing them in a fenced (yet large) area is technically still a human influence. Therefore things can still go wrong. In this situation, it did just that.
@markwilderness Please warn people about #rewilding. It ‘s animal abuse institutionalised. In Holland this winter 3000 horses, deer and cows starved to death. Govern refused to feed them: “wild animals” #OVP #Oostvaardersplassen pic.twitter.com/0YP3kwlLRB
— Nanda Tulner (@NandaTulner) April 19, 2018
There was been a call for a cap on how many large animals are present there, by the provincial government (to 1,500 – half of what it is now). This is to help prevent this from happening again. They also want a new forested area so the animals can shelter easier.
Some call this experiment a fail and some say it’s not an experiment at all. Some ecologists simply call this ‘life and death’ and that we should not be so sheltered and hide away the dead animals and the landscape. They believe that if more of the reserve was opened up to the wider public, that we would be able to see the real story, and see it from their point of view.
Of course, whilst most of us agree that it’s meant to represent a ‘wild’ landscape. We have still fenced it off, meaning that although the area is large, there are still limitations when the population grows. In this instance, can it still be considered a wild area, to let the ‘circle of life’ run its course if there is a fence all around it? Who’s to blame here? Is anyone to blame? You tell me your thoughts!
It’s a sensitive topic and for some, quite upsetting. What do you think about this? We would love to hear your views.