“Walk for Wildlife” – Raising awareness towards nature fragmentation
When we think about nature, we may be tempted to imagine luxuriant forests somewhere halfway across the globe, but we more often miss the nature right in front of us. In fact, The Netherlands contains a vast richness of natural landscape and protected areas. At the same time, it is also among the top 10 most densely populated countries in Europe. In such a highly populated country, mobility is a priority. But what about the mobility of wildlife when systems of roads, fences and general human infrastructures cut through large portions of natural habitat?
The “Walk for Wildlife” initiative aimed to draw attention to just that. During the 24th and 25th of August, we set out to hike c.a 50 Km through Dutch landscape to raise awareness to the fragmentation of natural habitats. Along the way, we were joined by specialists who were keen to talk to us about the current management of these areas.
The morning started out at the head offices of WWF NL in Zeist with a warm welcome by the FFNA minds behind this initiative and an introduction by Annemiek Heuvelmans-Driessen of WWF. Then, under the attentive supervision of WWF’s giant panda, Annemiek rang an impromptu bell to mark the start of the two-day hike.
The following hours were met with great motivation from our walkers. Soon we encountered our first obstacles – high fences and roads. After a long morning on the road and a quick lunch break, it was then time to head to our first highlight of the day at Ecoduct Mollebos. Atop the ecoduct, Markus Feijen from Utrechts Landschap told us about the important role of ecoducts and other fauna passages which serve as corridors that prevent roadkill and connect fragmented landscapes.
The hike resumed as planned. Or almost! With only a few hours left to make it to our camping grounds, we stumbled across “someone” in need of our assistance – an injured swallow. In just a few minutes, the Dierenambulance Woutenberg arrived to collect the injured bird and take it to its recovery. As for the rest of us, we rushed to our camp to finally have a much-deserved rest. And so, the evening was completed with a campfire storytelling session hosted by a familiar face, our guest Gina Maffey.
The Second day started off early in the morning after recharging our batteries. We were lucky to walk for a long while immersed in the forest of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug before arriving at the Amerongse floodplains. Our path was cut by a few high traffic streets, but we managed to reach the castle of Amerongen in one piece.
At the castle, we were greeted by our special guest – the enthusiastic Caroline van der Mark from ARK Natuurontwikkeling, another familiar face to the Future For Nature Academy. With Caroline’s guidance, we walked across the Amerongse floodplanes and discussed what is so unique about this place and its management. All in the company of beautiful wild horses, that stared at us as much as we stared at them, which made the moment so much more special.
We then left the floodplains through blooming heather fields and back into the forest. And finally, we reached Willem plantage 3, an old tobacco plantation turned into a nature reserve. Looking over the hill all the way down to the river, it seemed as if we had left the Netherlands for just a second.
At the end of the day, we regrouped at FFNA’s improvised headquarters in Wageningen to enjoy a few slices of (vegetarian) pizza in the company of everyone who participated or helped bringing this initiative to life. A big THANK YOU to everyone involved for making these two days a fun experience.
If our little adventure peaked your interest, here you can explore the Walk for Wildlife section of this website and enjoy the podcasts and photos of the walk. And if that inspires you, why not taking on a hike path through Dutch nature and experiencing it for yourself? Check the websites of our partners to find out where you can hike. And stay tuned around the same time next year!
By Mónica Vidal and Janneke Scheeres