Past events

FFN Award Ceremony 2020

FFN Award ceremony 2020

An afternoon full of digital conservation inspiration

On Friday the 30th of October, hundreds of people logged in to the Hopin platform to get in touch with this year’s Future For Nature Award winners. For the first time ever, the award ceremony took place in different spots all around the world at the same time, making us feel truly connected in this difficult era. Iroro Tanshi, working on the conservation of the short-tailed roundleaf bat in Nigeria, joined us from Texas. Tjalle Boorsma, a Dutch conservationist who is protection the blue-throated macaw, logged in from Bolivia. And María Fernanda Puerto-Carrillo, the jaguar saviour, joined us from her home in Venezuela. Moreover, the entire afternoon was hosted by the brilliant Saba Douglas-Hamilton, a world-famous conservationist and tv-presenter, live from the Kenyan wilderness where she grew up. As if this wasn’t inspiring enough, the members of the Future For Nature Academy were given the opportunity to ask the well-deserved award winners all our burning conservation-related questions. This led to truly inspiring conversations. Because there are no people who know better what is really important in conservation than the experts who are out there in the field fighting the conservation battle every single day. Their stories revived hope for the future!

By devoting your life to conservation, you can achieve big impacts such as the successful fledging of over 90 blue-throated macaw chicks or the discovery of new breeding grounds, directly ensuring species survival. This makes it one of the most rewarding jobs we as FFN Academy members can think of. However, the circumstances can also be difficult. Not all local communities are aware of the importance of conservation or see it as a science at all, the working areas might be difficult to access or there can be culture clashes between conservationists and the local communities. For example, long-standing beliefs about particular bat species being witches can complicate conservation efforts. But with the right mindset, energy and patience, our inspiring conservationists showed that these obstacles can be converted into challenges and the three of them are ready to take them on!

While taking on these challenges ahead, our heroes emphasized how important it is to engage the local communities in conservation. It is essential to understand how the locals use the landscape and what ecosystem services they need, for people are part of the landscape too. As Iroro explained, you cannot exclude people from caves that harbour bat roosts, because local people also use some of these to gather snails or as rain shelter. Another example was provided by Tjalle: cattle ranging has been going on for centuries in South America, so speaking to cattle rangers and understanding their needs is essential to making inclusive conservation plans. Sometimes, threats like forest fires that affect endangered species, affect humans as well. In these cases, conservation of affected species will also help humans. In other cases, reaching out to stakeholders with different interests and creating conservation plans that include all needs requires boldness, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking!

Moreover, education is an important step to get local enthusiasm for conservation. If you show people the value of certain species in terms of their contribution to the ecosystem services, they are much more willing to conserve them. For example, Iroro experienced that by showing locals that shea butter production is highly dependent on seed dispersal by bats, or that the ‘dawadawa’ (seasoning used in soups and stews) cannot exist without pollination by bats, people’s mindset really started to change. However, education is more than watching documentaries or listening to conservationist preaches: the experience people get from going into the field and seeing biodiversity in real life can spark a real change and encourage them to step into the conservation field. This way, conservation becomes the pride of the local people themselves!

In conclusion, conservation is a beautiful field that can be very hard but very rewarding. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a lot of patience to make people see that nature and livelihoods can beautifully coexist. Conservationists need to think out of the box, be crazy, bold, and confident! Moreover, they need to be full of hope for the future and convey their enthusiasm onto the local stakeholders to get them on board. Because when people work together, we can achieve so much more!

By: Fleur Damen & Priya Nair

Webinar Bring the Elephant Home

Can bees bring peace to elephants and farmers?

The smallest and the largest: a story of how small things can help solve big problems.

Although many people will see elephants as impressive and enchanting creatures, let’s not forget that they are also about 4 tonnes of animal, running over farmer’s crops, causing damage that might go beyond what local families can handle, potentially even causing injuries, death, and above all, fear. In a study in Thailand, led by Antoinette van de Water, 81% of the people living near elephant conservation zones were found to have had a negative impact of living with elephants in the past five years. Due to this human-elephant conflict, many farmers and local families that live close to wild animals, do not live in peaceful coexistence and use deterrents such as gunshots and fire to chase elephants of their land.

Trying to engage people in conservation therewith remains the “elephant in the room of conservation”. However, that is exactly what all the speakers in this webinar, hosted on September 18th, had in common: their aim to connect nature to people. The webinar was skillfully moderated by FFNA-member Juan Gallego Zamorano, and David Owen, project manager of Bring the Elephant Home (Thailand), with presentations by Antoinette van de Water and several other beehive-experts from different time-zones. Antoinette’s study was co-authored by Kevin Matteson, calling in from Miami University, and Lucy King, joining from Kenya. Kevin Matteson spoke about the need for community based conservation, and to think in outside-the-box solutions. The Queen bee, Lucy King, started working on using honeybees as a natural defence system against crop raiding by elephants back in 2006, in Kenya. Since then, Lucy has been invited to TED talks (now > 2 million views!), and won the 2013 Future For Nature award. Her set-up —with beehives attached to ropes, swinging and buzzing when touched by elephants— has spread around 19 countries, all working with the largest possible animal, with the smallest possible budget.

Yet, the inspiring stories from the field that follow, do show a story filled with hope and optimism. Rachaya Arkajak (Phuluang Wildlife Research Station, Thailand) played a big role in bringing beehive fences to Thailand, giving beekeeping workshops and organizing flower-planting days, to make sure there are enough flowers around for the bees to bee happy. In her story, we hear how farmers can learn about the benefits of bee-keeping, which also provides alterative income from honey and beeswax. Antoinette van de Water led the research that was done in one of the fieldwork stations in Thailand, which culminated in a scientific publication! Antoinette’s research on the effectiveness of these beehive fences, was not only based on the stories of farmers but likewise on camera trap footage that was in part classified by Future For Nature Academy members (you)!

The results do show that these beehives seem to prevent part of the elephants from entering crop fields and gardens, and that keeping bees also provided alternative income. Yet, the beehive fences are not the perfect solution in every situation. Diverting to alternative crop types that elephants seem to avoid, such as all of the spicy ingredients of Tom Yum soup (BTEH – Tom Yum Project), can offer a solution. Most of all, Antoinette explains how the beehive-fence project can unite people, elephants and bees, and how much we can learn from elephant societies, that are led by women.

The panellist that joined the discussion during the webinar are some amazing Matriarchs with a wish to create coexistence between humans and elephants all around the world. Pachi Metha, for instance, started using playbacks of African honeybee buzzes on Indian rice paddies, after she met Lucy King on a IUCN conference in Beijing. Indian farmers were so amazed and inspired by the results, that more and more beehive fences arise every year! The work of Michelle Henley and her PhD student Robin Cook, shows that bees can also help out in solving other problems concerning elephants. In South Africa, elephants are culled because they debark large trees in the Greater Kruger National Park. Marula trees are a keystone species due to their cultural, ecological and economical value. As an alternative to culling, Michelle and Robin hang beehives inside the trees, and areas with beehives show a higher survival of these trees. In addition, they recently started a project on using bee attack pheromones to deter elephants, applying bee biology to aid in the coexistence between elephants, humans and trees. Furthermore, they are currently working with the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit to empower women through beekeeping. Finally, Kylie Butler adds insight from her project on bees and elephants in Sri Lanka, where they surrounded home gardens with bee fences. Although the setup seemed to work, there were difficulties too, where the bees for instance left the hives, decreasing the interest of farmers to keep up the effort in beekeeping, indicating that this project is in need for continuous development.

Although beehive fences might not be the silver bullet for reducing the human-elephant conflict, they do bring people together and can help in bridging the gap between people and nature. Through the endless effort and inspiration of all of these conservationists, many more farmers and local communities around the world are now learning about the majestic elephants, and how they can help in creating a peaceful coexistence themselves.

Click here to (re)discover more.

By: Janneke Troost & Ignas Heitkönig


Botanical chalking

Botanical Chalking


Stop weed-shaming

In our finely managed world, urban environments have become gray landscapes in which every street and house is perfectly planned. People walk the streets without realizing there is still some greenery left. Even if they do, we often call what is left ‘weeds’ as they are not placed where we chose them to be. In 2001, a botanist in France decided to change this thinking by chalking down the names of wild plants on the sidewalks. His aim was to raise awareness of the wild plants all around us and to gain respect and knowledge for plants on the sidewalks. This is because the term ‘weed’ is subjective. What we call a troublesome ordinary plant, can be regarded as a beautiful exotic plant somewhere else. These ‘weeds’ play just as other plants an important role in drainage of rainwater, improving city cooling, producing oxygen, removing pollution and improving biodiversity by among others pollination. On top of that, ‘weeds’ are very resilient to climate change as they can grow in harsh concrete circumstances. Even more reason to give these sidewalk plants some more credit.

Inspired by the botanist in France, FFNA-Wageningen decided to organize a similar activity to raise awareness for wild plants in the city centre of Wageningen. After a nice talk from Charlotte and Janneke about FFNAcademy and the importance of weeds, a group of ~25 students split into groups and started chalking down the Dutch/English and Latin names of wild plants such as Taraxacum officinale and Erigeron canadensis on the streets. We did this by using old-fashioned identification books or by using modern apps like PlantNet and SEEK.

We can proudly say this activity was a success as many people passing by were curious about what we were doing and even tried to guess which plants we were going to write down. We had decided to make the activity ~1 hour long (talk + ‘sidewalk safari’) so it would fit easily during everyone’s lunch break, but many participants would’ve been up for chalking a while longer. We may consider organizing this activity again in the future as we noticed many people were interested in joining. We also recommend other cities to reorganize this activity to raise awareness of wild plants on sidewalks as people need to start naming weeds instead of shaming weeds.

By Janneke Scheeres and Martin Brussaard

Workshop Biomimicry

Workshop Biomimicry

To emphasize the ‘Academy’ part of the Future for Nature Academy, we organize workshops exclusively for FFN Academy Members. In these workshops, participants learn practical skills that are useful for a career in nature conservation, but are not necessarily part of a school curriculum.

Cooperation is one of those skills. Good cooperation can significantly increase the chances of success for nature conservation projects. Therefore, the Academy was very grateful that Ylva Poelman was willing to show us what we can learn from nature itself, in terms of cooperation. She is one of the Dutch pioneers in the field of biomimicry/bionics/ bio-inspired innovation, a field in which nature is looked at as a source of inspiration for dealing with problems we as humans face. We found out there is much to be learned. After all, nature has been experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work for 4 billion years! More specifically, we looked at how to cooperate effectively for conserving nature. Furthermore, we discovered another reason for conserving nature: there are loads of examples of ‘’proven technology’’!

During the workshop Ylva introduced us to the field of bionics/biomimicry. She explained the principles and showed various examples of bio-inspired innovation. After that we had a taste of what it is like to work from a bionics perspective. In groups, we worked on assignments for which we had to think about and look at nature in a different way. We tried to figure out which underlying conditions are required for different types of cooperation mechanisms. Ultimately, we tried to answer the question: ‘’How can we cooperate effectively with people from different backgrounds with different views and jargon?’’, which happens often in nature conservation. All in all, it was a great, educative day that showed us a different way of looking at nature.

By Marjolein Poelman


Zero Waste Workshop

Zero waste workshop

Living zero waste is a trend that a lot of people have shown interest in, especially in nowadays times regarding the climate crisis. It is a way of living where all the items you use are made and used in such a way that is eco-friendly for the environment. That means less plastic use, less buying of single-use items, less money spending and using items that are made of natural, compostable products. It also involves a lot of recycling and re-using of items that have already fulfilled their initial purpose, for example, using an old toothbrush to clean the glass of your fish tank. Living zero waste is not hard and, besides it being good for the environment, is money and time saving. 

Living zero waste doesn’t happen in a day, it’s a process. With this work shop, we wanted people to take a moment and think about living more zero waste and its possibilities and how they could apply it in their daily life. With a few simple recipes we made people connect with living more zero waste. On request, everyone brought an old T-shirt that could be used and a glass jar.

The work shop started off with a big mind map about living zero waste. People engaged in a big discussion where they expressed their first thoughts about zero waste and the difficulties they experienced.

In the practical park of the work shop, the group was split up in three. There were three stations where people could either make dish soap, disinfectant wipes or they could create something useful of their own thrash. All the stations were adjusted to each other; you could use previously made dish soap in the disinfectant wipes and eventually you could decorate your own glass jar. In between the switch of stations there were small breaks where people could grab drinks and snacks.


The participants were very excited about trying the recipes and eager to participate in the discussion. The goal of the work shop was to make people think about how they, as ordinary citizen, could also help nature a little hand by changing small habits in their life. Together with the discussion and the practical part, we found that it was highly successful and definitely up for a sequel! 

By Danielle van der Burg

Leadership Workshop

Leadership workshop

To emphasize the ‘Academy’ part of the Future For Nature Academy, there is a wish to organize workshops exclusively for FFN Academy Members. In these workshops, participants learn practical skills that are useful for a career in nature conservation, but are not necessarily part of the university curriculum.

Leadership is one of those skills. Good leadership skills can significantly increase the chances of success for any nature conservation project. Therefore, the Academy was very grateful that Laurent Hendrickx was willing to share his leadership experience with us during a full day workshop. Laurent Hendrickx has nearly 40 years of experience at the Ministry of Defense, in particular at the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. Here, leadership is a skill that he needed to have good command of, because without leadership you will not get far in conflict and stressful situations.

During the workshop we were introduced to different aspects of leadership, such as different leadership styles, self-knowledge, and personal and group development. In addition, he told us about his experiences in the field of intercultural communication and skills based on experiences abroad. It was very informative and Laurent provided us with new insights about leadership and the necessity of these skills if you really want to get things done. Also, it was quite inspiring and at times impressive to hear about his experiences and stories in general and in the field of leadership. Some aspects of leadership and group dynamics were also illustrated through games and group discussions. All in all, it was a great, educative day that definitely influenced our perspectives on leadership.

By Marjolein Poelman

Connecting Conservationists

Connecting Conservationists

You might wonder how dedicating your life to conservation in the field feels like. Or maybe you just want to discuss how to achieve conservation in the world of today. Whichever may be the case for you, being able to share these questions and many more with award winning conservationists is guaranteed to inspire you.

Last Saturday, 26th of October, Burger’s Zoo opened its doors yet again for, not one, not three, but sixteen Future For Nature Award winners to share their visions for conservation with students and young professionals. And as usual, Future For Nature Academy was tasked with gathering a group of enthusiastic youngsters to populate the event and bring their curious minds together.

The afternoon started off promising. As we walked through the hallway into the auditorium, we could read the amazing conservation stories of the awardees as a sign of what was to come. In the Auditorium, the program kicked off with a relaxed atmosphere. Our very own Jannah Boerakkers gave us a word of welcome and soon the first group of winners took the stage.

Four by four, each group of winners was presented with conservation issues to discuss. Meanwhile, the audience was able to vote on popular answers through their smartphones as well as posing their own questions. From more fundamental questions relating to our personal view of conservation we went on to discuss our priorities for the field and the value of staying optimistic. Finally, we even had time to comment on our role as conservationists to set an example with our choices.

As the panel session came to an end, guests and winners had already generated enough food for thought. It was now time to calm the hungry stomachs (and minds) with some snacks, drinks, and of course mingling, as we prepared to join the dynamic workshops planned for the afternoon.

But not without first checking the Job Board set by the Future For Nature Award winners. Here each awardee displayed vacancies within their organization to hopefully be occupied by our VIP guests.

The workshop session then followed, with exciting themed workshops. From more fundamental/ecologic conservation topics such as rainforest conservation and marine conservation to applied topics on human dimensions like human-wildlife conflict and wildlife crime. Surely everyone had something to choose from.

To break the ice, each workshop session started with some speed dating – a fine way to get to know the work and opinions of each other regarding several conservation hot topics. But it was time to get some work done and our winners and guests gathered to discuss the topics of their choice. Hopefully, everyone managed to leave their workshops with something to show for their hard work.

But let it not be all about work! The winners and VIP guests had time for more mingling after their workshops. In the end, we hope everyone had a good time and was able to satiate their curious minds. 

By Monica Vidal

“Walk for Wildlife” – Raising awareness towards nature fragmentation

“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 Woudenberg 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

The success story of nature development in the Netherlands

The success story of nature development in the Netherlands

Where agriculture was still to be found a short time ago, the Millingerwaard has developed into a nature reserve with a very high biodiversity and working ecosystem. Sunday the 19th of May, Caroline van der Mark took us on an excursion through the Millingerwaard. We learned about natural processes, the key function of bigger animals in this area such as the Konik horses, Galloway cattle and beavers that shaped this area.

Our tour started in the bus when Caroline gave us a small introduction about ARK Nature Development. When driving on the dyke we had a beautiful view over the surrounding area and the Millingerwaard. This dyke protects several villages from the rising water of the river Waal. After a short drive we entered the nature area where the expedition started by foot. We were lucky with the sunny weather and after a small walk we arrived at the bird observation post and spotted some special bird species. Next, the expedition went ‘off road’ and we visited an old beaver castle. Although the beaver family was not present, we found some beaver tracks and could see how they built their home with an entrance to the water, where a group of frogs lived and started to vocalize when they noticed us. Our expedition through bushes went on and when we reached an open field we came across two Koniks horses.

Halfway we arrived at the Waal. Here a lot of Galloway cattle were resting along the river, under the trees. It was time to have a break ourselves while enjoying the view of the water.

One key message Caroline gave us is that you can do what you love if you follow your passion. The development of the ARK organisation is a great example since it has been expanded to a large organisation while it started with a very small and simple idea. A couple of very passionate people wanted to realize robust nature and created large nature areas with interconnections. Years later they showed that if you allow nature to regulate its own development, different natural processes will result in fascinating and multiple plant and animal species taking over the area. Eventually this all resulted in a very biodiverse landscape. The Millingerwaard is a great example of how nature can return.

After the tour there was time to drink something and to chat at the cafe before the bus took us back. It was a successful sunny day exploring nature!

By Aimy Lankheet

Zero (plastic) waste workshop

Zero (plastic) waste workshop

It was an interactive and inspiring workshop. The professional Nila Patty guided us through the universe of life without plastic and the way of living zero- or low waste.

The workshop started with a short, informative talk about the origin, use and cycle, of plastic. The speech had an interactive character. For example, Nila made several statements to the group and asked us after each statement whether we agreed or disagreed, and why. For the duration of the workshop, we could ask her anything. All regarded questions were answered truthfully and comprehensively explained. Where to buy pasta? Where to buy milk? How about the plastic you consume indirectly when you, for example, go out to dinner?

Although all we learnt is too much to reiterate, here are a few take home lessons:

  • When you buy a product covered in plastic, you do not only pay for the product but for the plastic cover as well. So when you park your PMD container at the road for the garbage collectors at the end of the week, the container is basically stuffed with products you paid for.
  • Treat plastic like a diamond. Both are blessed with a long life and won’t whither fast. When you lose a diamond, you will pity that, as it is of great value and will not pass into dust for the next decade. When you lose plastic, you might not pity it in the same way but it will also not pass into dust for at least a decade.
  • Remember that plastic is only one of the products we make from crude oil. As long as we need petrol, kerosene, asphalt, and such, we might as well make use of the by product to create plastics.

After the talk, we went to work. Nila presented several creative ideas on-screen on how to transform your plastic bottle. The transformative ideas varied from a plant holder to a piggy bank. Nila inspired and motivated us to start our own low-waste journey, step by step. Very inspirational!

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