For most people, night time marks the end of a day, but for some creatures, it is only just the beginning. If you think urban centres are devoid of wildlife, you might want to reconsider, for its wild inhabitants might just be waiting for the fall of night to roam about. Bats are among the most iconic but virtually undetected nocturnal city dwellers. Circa 21 species of bats can be found in The Netherlands alone and some of them might even call your roof home!
As an exciting way to start the month, we had the pleasure to join ecologist and bat expert Ilco van Woersem in a nocturnal excursion through the residential suburbia of Utrecht in search of the elusive ¨flying mice¨. Equipped with bat detectors, small devices that detect the ultrasounds produced by bats, we followed Ilco into a residential neighbourhood and, lucky for us, he knew exactly where to find the bats. According to Ilco van Woersem, Dutch houses have small gaps in their structures, where bats can easily fit through. It is no wonder they chose someone´s roof to make their nest!
Right after dusk the first inhabitant emerged. Our task? Counting them. It wasn’t easy but, in total, we were able to detect c.a. 42 individuals emerging from the roost site. This was a roost of the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), one of the most abundant species in The Netherlands.
But the evening was far from over. From the house, we took to the wonderful Beatrix Park, where we were able to hear, and in some cases see, other bat species. One notable species being the water or Daubenton´s bat (Myotis daubentonii). The water bat is most notable for occupying a distinct foraging niche since it only feeds above water bodies. We were also delighted with the presence of two other bat species during our walk, Pipistrellus nathusii and Eptesicus serotinus, both with very distinctive vocalizations that we were able to recognize with the bat detectors.
Unfortunately time flies, and it was time to head home. Our participants were able to return with a few bat trivia up their sleeves.
So now you know, next time you take a walk at night, look at the skies!
Thank you all for participating and we hope to see you again soon!
By Monica Vidal
When someone asks us about heroes, we often think of the visible. People who have shown great things and they have probably been in the news a couple of times. Nevertheless, many heroes work mainly behind the scenes and that causes them to be unseen. On Thursday May 17, we welcomed one of the heroes of the Painted Dog Conservation (PDC), Wilton Nsimango, at HAS University in Den Bosch. Wilton enthusiastically taught us all about PDC.
Painted dogs face many threats. Therefore, protection and conservation have to consist of many different acts. Employees of the PDC reach out not only to the dogs, but also to local people. Education is a great way to involve children in nature conservation. A painted dog is something extraordinary, which many kids have never seen before. Who would care for something unknown? Schoolkids with the age of 12 are invited to a bush camp, where their first meeting with painted dogs will take place. After 4 days, many kids leave inspired and want to protect the dogs. Today, 15 years later, several students have started working at PDC.
Besides that, there is a rehabilitation centre, an Anti-Poaching Unit team, and the Iganyana Art Centre. The last one deserves a little bit more attention. For example; wire snares, which often lead to death of the African Wild Dog, are used to create art. But snare art is just one of the things that are made in the Art Centre. As stated on their website: www.painteddog.org, they are “turning something negative into something truly wonderful”.
The structure and complexity of the Painted Dog Conservation have really inspired us. The basis of everything there is passion for these unique animals and to save them, many people give their everything, day after day. Should you ever go to Zimbabwe, then consider visiting the Painted Dog Conservation. Finally, I would like to end with a quote of the amazing Wilton himself:
“It is our deep felt belief that in order to make a difference and win in conservation, it is paramount to change lives.”
By Manon Verijdt
What do you do when you’re interested in Dutch nature and want to know more about different issues around it? The FFN Academy organised the perfect workshop evening, where eager participants could lend some of their creative brainpower to 3 Dutch experts from different fields. Every specialist prepared a case study from their area of expertise, which we discussed in groups and presented the results and solutions to the other groups at the end of the evening. Elze Polman talked about ‘the return of the wolf to The Netherlands’, John van Duursen about ‘the restoration of Dutch peat bogs’ and Eelke Jongejans about ‘the decline of flying insects’.
Sounds pretty interesting right? It most certainly was!
We got an introduction talk about every case from the experts. Improving communication with the public was a clear trend through all cases, which is a challenging subject that a lot can be said about. We divided ourselves into 3 separate ‘task forces’ to tackle the case studies. At every table people were enthusiastically writing things down and were joined in active conversations.
Time flies when you’re having fun, because soon after we had to present our posters with results. From every group 2 people proudly presented their poster. The wolf group had lots of ideas on how to better inform the public about wolves in the Netherlands. They also had some interesting thoughts on helping farmers to scare away wolves with urine from other predators. The peat bog group had some great initiatives to attract people to peat bog areas for local tourism as well as making citizens feel more connected to the areas. The insect group promoted their ideas on changing farms into nature areas plus improving public awareness about Dutch insects.
Overall, everyone had come up with different approaches to their cases and to improving nature communication. We as participants got an insight to the problems with nature in the Netherlands, while the experts hopefully got to take new ideas and insights with them to their workplaces.
Finally we moved to the hallway where we had drinks and the opportunity to further discuss ideas that came up during the workshops. It was also a great moment to strengthen networks by meeting new people and chatting to old friends. Eventually, we stood there talking till the moment the building had to close. Overall, a great evening!
By Janneke Scheeres
Bee and insect hotel building
You have probably read about it in the news: bee populations all around the world are in decline. One of the main causes is the limited availability of habitat due to the high rate of urbanization. To help the bee populations on a local level, the FFN Academy joined forces with the Green Office Utrecht and organized a workshop on how to build a bee and insect hotel.
The workshop started with a bee introduction on solitary bees by dr. Marie José Duchateau from the department of Environmental Biology from Utrecht University. She explained all about the life cycle of solitary bees and their highly important role as pollinators. Like honey bees, solitary bees pollinate flowers and crops for our own food production. Without these pollinators, a lot of fruits and vegetables would be lost. For example, did you know that almost all tomatoes we eat are pollinated by bees? Marie José continued by explaining that small-scale biotopes are essential for the survival of bees. Unlike honey bees, solitary bees do not live in hives but have solitary nesting sites (as indicated by their name). Solitary bees are not able to travel long distances, making it difficult for bees and insects too find suitable nesting sites and food in urban areas.
Knowing these species are declining, we cannot sit still and do nothing! Marie José explained that with just a little effort, people can help out bees and other insects. She told us about ‘bee and insect hotels’, which are constructions made to accommodate solitary bees and other insects such as ladybugs. Bee hotels are on sale everywhere now, but you can easily build your own accessible nesting sites for solitary bees and transform your backyard into a bee-friendly garden.
After the great lecture, it was time to build our very own bee hotel. The FFN Academy and Green Office provided the participants with all the equipment and materials they needed. With approval and support from Utrecht University, we were able to place a large bee hotel at the Uithof near the Botanical Gardens. Half of the workshop participants went outside to build a big bee hotel and thanks to everyone’s hard work it came out great. The bee hotel will stay for around three years and will hopefully be able to support lots of bees and other insects. Definitely have a look if you are curious to see how a real, big bee hotel looks like! The other half of the group remained inside and built smaller, portable bee hotels, which they were able to take home. These small hotels can easily be placed around homes or in gardens, preferable within 250 meters of a flower field.
If you read this and are inspired to make your own bee hotel, have a look online for building-tutorials. After making it, the only thing left is to place the small hotel outside and make sure that there are flowers around. If you have a garden or balcony, but do not want a bee hotel, another way to help is to plant as many flowers as possible. This not only brightens up your outside area, but provides all kinds of bees and insects with the food they need!
Science Saving Elephants – A lecture by Antoinette van de Water
Ever wondered what life is like as a conservationist? If you are, you are not alone! Almost one hundred participants joined FFN Academy for an inspiring lecture by Antoinette van de Water. This ‘Heldin van de Wildernis’ just came back from Thailand and was kind enough to step by in Utrecht to tell us all about her volunteer work in an elephant sanctuary and about her life-long mission to restore people’s ability to co-exist with elephants.
Antoinette is the founder of ‘Bring the Elephant Home‘, a foundation that fights for the protection of elephants and their habitat together with local organisations and people in Thailand and Borneo. After many years of fighting for the freedom of elephants that are abused in the Thai tourist industry, Antoinette and her foundation are now fully focussed on wildlife conservation efforts. In her lecture she particularly showed us how science has been crucial to demonstrate the effectiveness of several solutions to reduce human-elephant conflicts and thus to convince people to take action.
Under the supervision of Future for Nature Award winner Dr. Lucy King, Antoinette has now successfully tested beehive fences as an elephant deterrent measure in Thailand. At first, the local farmers did not understand how the beehives would prevent the elephants from destroying their crops. However, Antoinette’s carefully designed projects helped her gain the trust of local people. Now many of the farmers co-exist peacefully with elephants. Some farmers even abandoned their initial crops and are now fully focussed on the production of honey! A win-win situation!
One might think that Antoinette would take a break after this success story, yet this is far from the truth. She is in the middle of moving to South Africa to set up a new research station and continue her research on bee-hives and elephants. Antoinette explained that the situation in South Africa is very different from what she experienced in Thailand. For example, the main threat for the African elephants is not the destruction of habitat, but the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory tusks. Also the rules and legislation in South Africa on human-elephant conflicts are quite different from those in Thailand.
Antoinette showed us that conservation together with science and perseverance can really make a difference and I think that I speak on behalf of all other visitors if I say that we all truly felt inspired by her talk!
By Nick van Doormaal
Appetite for Destruction: Palm oil diaries
Together with Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) FFN Academy organized three interactive evenings on palm oil to create awareness and help kick-off the campaign ‘Draw the line’ from MilieuDefensie. In Utrecht, Wageningen and Amsterdam the documentary Appetite for Destruction was broadcasted. It showed us the devastating consequences of the palm oil industry both for the forest and its inhabitants. A video message from Alexandra Vosmear and Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn, recorded especially for this occasion stressed this even more. Next to the documentary, in each city a different speaker was invited to give a talk on the topic and to lead the discussion afterwards. In Amsterdam we had the honour to have FFN Award winner Farwiza Farhan speaking from her experiences in Indonesia. In Wageningen, Dr. Michiel Köhne highlighted the social impact of the palm oil industry and in Utrecht Dr. Pita Verweij focussed on problems and solutions on the palm oil issue. We were pleasantly surprised by the many people that attended these evenings and we thank MilieuDefensie for the nice collaboration!
By Reineke van Tol
What do you do when you are an established ecological organization who organizes a symposium and you want to reach more students? Collaborate with the Future For Nature Academy! Together with NERN, the Future For Nature Academy organized the symposium “Innovation in Conservation – Fundamental science as a basis for sustainable conservation” in Lunteren on the 29th of November 2017. A unique chance for FFN Academy members and followers to get an insight in Ecology & Conservation research! The FFN Academy enhanced promotion by creating quote posters to introduce the speakers in the week before the event and shared it with our network. The symposium was a big success, over a 120 people were present. Most of them were students, eager to learn more about the work of the seven guest speakers. The speakers came from different disciplines and the day was hosted by the executive director of IUCN-NL Dr. Coenraad Krijger. It was a great day with lots of interesting discussions and ample network opportunities for FFN Academy members among researchers and NGO’s such as WWF and IUCN. For the Future For Nature Academy it was an extra surprise when we were given the opportunity to interview two of the international speakers. Videos of these interviews will follow soon!
Thank you all for being there!
List of speakers and their topic:
Prof. Jaboury Ghazoul – Ecological Theory and Conservation Practice
Dr Robert Kraus – Whole genome sequencing: Panacea for Conservation?
Dr. Frank van Langevelde – Preventing wildlife crime with progress in ecology and technology
Ir. Bart Geenen – Evolution in governance of conservation
Prof. Eric Higgs – Innovations in restoration ecology: Fortress Restoration, or a flexible, adaptable approach?
Dr. Marijke van Kuijk – Meta-analysis as a tool for revealing overarching patterns
Prof. Bram Büscher – Towards convivial conservation: radical ideas for saving nature in the Anthropocene
By Pauline Buffing
On the 19th of September 2017, an interactive documentary evening was organized at the lovely location ‘THUIS’ in Wageningen with around 40-50 attendees. The evening was all about chimpanzees, who are often called “chimpions” in animal research and nature conservation, as they are a frequently studied primate species. On the other hand, the evening focused on the “underhogs” too, referring to the smallest pig species in the world called the ‘pygmy hog’. Both chimpanzees and pygmy hogs are endangered in the wild and need human intervention to thrive and survive.
After a brief introduction by Manon de Visser about the Durrell Conservation Trust, we were lucky to have dr. Ole Madsen from the Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre in Wageningen as a speaker during the first half of the evening. He told the attendees all they needed to know about genomic research performed on Pygmy Hog DNA. This talk was followed by the documentary called “Durrell’s Underhogs” (2017). The movie explained the difficulties in managing a breeding and reintroduction program for a species that is so critically endangered. After the movie ended, the filmmaker Daniel Craven joined us through Skype to answer our burning questions and the eventual conversation was lovely and very inspiring.
After a break with drinks and snacks, the second half of the evening focused on zoo-housed chimpanzees. Manon de Visser told the audience about the Jane Goodall Institute Global and how this organization is working not only for the welfare and conservation of wild chimpanzees, but also captive chimpanzees. Afterwards, the movie “A Week To Change” (2017) by Hilda Tresz was shown. Also Hilda was able to join us over Skype for an interesting, passionate discussion.
In the end, the evening was truly unique and inspiring. Especially the chance to meet the filmmakers made many people interested and enthusiastic. Not only students joined, but also professors, animal caretakers from Dutch zoos, and people working for various NGO’s. It would be great if we, as Future For Nature Academy, will have a chance to re-do this activity at another location in the country so we can inspire and educate even more people about the conservation needs of these amazing animals.
Daniel Craven is the Volunteer Manager of the Wildlife Conservation Trust and he is based in Jersey Zoo. He is also filmmaker of “Durrell’s Underhogs”.
Hilda is a behavioral enrichment and international animal welfare coordinator at Phoenix Zoo. She is also filmmaker of “A Week To Change”
By Manon de Visser
On Tuesday September 12th (2017) the Future For Nature Academy & study association LaarX presented the documentary ‘War on Minerals’ and Q&A with documentary maker Jacco Groen. In 2012, 147 nature conservationist from all over the world were murdered. One of them was a Dutchman: Willem Geertman. The documentary ‘War on Minerals’ tells his story. In the movie, Jacco Groen investigates how the murder exactly could have taken place. Furthermore he dives into the world of conflicting interests, which causes conservationist like Willem to fear for their lives. After the movie, documentary maker Jacco Groen answered questions about the documentary, and the battle the nature conservationists are facing fighting for the dangers that are threatening Earth’s biodiversity on a daily basis and fighting for their own lives. As true heroes, these individuals make a real difference! It was an intense but unforgettable and inspiring documentary, where over 70 people attended.
The documentary is an initiative of Bescherm de natuurbeschermer. The project ‘Bescherm de Natuurbeschermer’ improves the safety of threatened nature conservationist in countries all over the world. More information about them and their petition can be found on www.beschermdenatuurbeschermer.nl
The official trailer:
By Roos Ahlers
Would it be possible to create a viable currency based on ecosystem function that would remove the current incentive to degrade natural systems and replace it with an incentive to conserve all remaining functional systems and regenerate all degraded landscapes? This was the main topic of the workshop given by John D. Liu.
The workshop was attended by 20 people with different backgrounds ranging from students studying Forest and Nature Conservation, to employees of the World Soil Museum to an entrepreneur. A very diverse audience! The workshop was in the form of a discussion where the attendees discussed how we seem to value things we make, higher than natural ecosystem functions. Resulting in biodiversity loss, deforestation, desertification and other visible effects on nature. To combat these problems the possibility of creating a viable currency based on ecosystem function was evaluated. How can nature be turned into something that will be perceived as valuable and investable?
During the lecture that followed, attended by over a 100 people, John D. Liu shared his background and his journey to how he has come to his role as large-scale ecosystem restoration advisor today. He shared his global observations of desertification and how he learned more about the rehabilitation of landscapes. He rounded off with a positive note, highlighting the establishment of Ecosystem Restauration Camps.
John D. Liu is Chinese American film-maker and ecologist who for many years has been observing, documenting and communicating about large-scale ecosystem restoration. Some of you may know him from the documentary ‘Green Gold’ shown on the VPRO programme Tegenlicht. His documentaries and speeches contribute significantly to the global awareness among world leaders. For 3 years Liu was a senior research fellow at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Currently John D. Liu is the Ecosystem ambassador for the Commonland Foundation. In 2015 he was also named Visiting Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO). John’s published papers and films are collected at the following URL: https://knaw.academia.edu/JohnDLiu.
By Onnika van Oosterbosch