Cleaning the entire Dutch coastline in only two weeks, that is the ambitious goal of the Boskalis Beach Cleanup Tour, a yearly event organised by Stichting de Noordzee. This summer, as much as 2,764 volunteers helped to reach this goal and a small team gathered by FFNAcademy was part of them! We spent an afternoon together out on the beach between Hoek van Holland and Monster in… let’s say not-bikini weather. Nevertheless, it was a good way of spending time outside serving a good cause by picking up every last bit of non-natural material that we could spot, resulting in a total of 440 kilos of garbage that we cleared off the beach forever.
By means of experiment, the organisers from Stichting de Noordzee had asked us to collect two kind of items separately: balloon remains and cigarette buds. The former received special attention during the whole clean-up tour to raise awareness about this specific type of pollution. As you may know, letting helium-filled balloons up into the sky is a popular tradition during all kinds of celebrations. Balloons, however, have the nasty habit of popping eventually and this often happens while they are drifting above sea. The result is of course extra plastic pollution, which negatively affects the marine environment and its wildlife.
The other items to be collected separately, were cigarette buds. Stichting de Noordzee wanted to count how many buds would be collected on just one day of cleaning the beach. What most people don’t know or don’t seem to realise is that the filters in cigarette buds are 95% plastic(!). Also, they are designed to take up heavy toxins and are easily mistaken for food by birds, fish and even marine mammals. Sadly, there were a lot out there… But the good news is that we managed to reduce the total number by 14,696 buds!
By Judith Algra
Wildlife crime seminar
Poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products is a major conservation challenge of the 21st century. Many scientists and conservationists are using their expertise to understand and tackle this complicated problem. On the 24th of August, the Future For Nature Academy joined forces with dr. Andrew Lemieux of the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) and together organized a Wildlife crime seminar “From source to market”.
When we think of poaching or wildlife crimes, many of us probably think of poached rhinos, elephants, or tigers. However, the illegal killing of plants and animals in the wild is only one stage of a whole poaching-chain: the animal products also need to be transported or smuggled outside of the source country, and will be eventually finally be sold to a consumer. All these different stages are equally important and the better we understand how each stage works, who is involved etc., the better we are able to design prevention strategies. During the seminar the whole ‘chain’ of wildlife crime was discussed, including poaching in protected areas, transportation to markets and consumption by end-users. For example, we learned about the patterns in bushmeat poaching, about trade networks from Africa to Europe, but also about consumption in China.
Nine different experts shared their stories with the audience in the morning and afternoon. Each of the expert focused on one or more stages of the whole ‘chain of poaching’. The experts were not only researchers and academics, but also practitioners from governmental agencies. It was very interesting to see how the different Dutch agencies and organizations operate and work together. According to some of the experts, the Netherlands play quite an important role as a transit country in the illegal wildlife trade. We also discussed some less obvious, but hugely important topics such as wildlife laundering through breeding farms, and the enforcement at customs.
In between talks there was room for some questions, but the main discussion was at the very end. All the experts formed a panel to which the audience could ask follow up questions, discuss certain topics, and identify research gaps on which students could focus. Some of the key points that was highlighted was an interdisciplinary approach to better understand the problem and students were encouraged to also look outside their own discipline. Other points that were mentioned was that we also lack basic biological information about the species in the wild. This is especially the case for the lesser-known reptiles and amphibians species.
The students could approach the experts in an informal setting, but also the other participants to learn more about each other and their work. Perhaps, the greatest opportunity was that everyone was actively involved in identifying research opportunities where students could focus on! The seminar was a big success with many students, practitioners, and professionals from all over the Netherlands joining in.
Meeting FFN hero Barbara Galetti
Barbara Galetti is president of Centro de Conservacion Cetacea (CCC), a Chilean NGO dedicated to the conservation of cetacean species and the marine ecosystem. In 2011 she won the Future For Nature Award, and now she was back in the Netherlands for a short visit. Eight of the Future For Nature Academy members had the opportunity to meet her personally in Burgers’ Zoo.
With only a little bit of time Barbara took the FFN Academy group through her journey of setting up the CCC. How CCC was founded and what challenges she faced. She answered the various questions of the FFN Academy members and stressed how important every individual’s contribution is. She reflected that the younger people today are more conscious of what others think, which has unfortunately make people less activistic in their battle for nature conservation. Especially in South-America, being a conservationist is not ‘cool’ and can be dangerous.
In her career she has learned that it is not always possible to stay friends with everyone if you want to achieve your conservation goals because everyone has their own agenda. She explained how she aims to stay independent of the commercial industry as this often leads to compromises in conservation work.
At the end of the meet and great Barbara referred everyone to look up the movement reclaimconservation.org.
By Onnika van Oosterbosch
Problem oriented Wildlife Protection
A quote from a recent scientific article reads: “Conservation is not rocket science…it is far more complex than that.” And that is actually the reason why Dr. Andrew Lemieux is so interested in studying wildlife crimes. On Tuesday 26th of June, the Future for Nature Academy invited Andrew to share his experiences and knowledge on wildlife crime in a public lecture in Amsterdam.
Andrew is a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement in Amsterdam where he is the coordinator of the wildlife crime research cluster. Straight from the beginning, Andrew dived into the different scientific methods that he uses in his research. Andrew approaches wildlife crime from a criminological perspective, and is particularly focused on applying lessons learned from research on crime prevention and policing to improve wildlife protection. While criminology and conservation may seem an odd combination at first; often we hear from wildlife biologist or ecologist about poaching as a major threat to plants and animals worldwide. Andrew explained to the audience that criminology has actually a lot to offer.
Andrew then went on in explaining that a defining a specific problem is key for the success of successfully fighting crime. For example, projects that aim to prevent crimes in Amsterdam are likely to fail simply because they are too vague. Or as Andrew put it: “Poaching isn’t poaching isn’t poaching”. He stresses the need for first defining a specific problem, before thinking about what the solutions could be: A project that aims to reduce bike theft at train stations in Amsterdam is already a much better defined and this helps to identify appropriate solutions. This is what Andrew refers to as ‘problem-oriented wildlife protection’. This concept is already being implemented in several sites in South-East Asia, specifically aimed at protecting tiger populations.
Finally, Andrew emphasized the need for wildlife crime analysts that help identifying problems and break them up into manageable pieces for law enforcement rangers. In other words: “the human element in conservation is key!”
Andrew’s experience with rangers in the field and his interesting, criminological approach gave us a lot to think about. While at first, it may seem a very daunting task trying to deal with all these different angles, but the message was clear: it can be done! It was great to see that so many people with different background joined this lecture. I think I speak for all the participants when I say that we learned a lot that evening!
By Nick van Doormaal
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
Workshop Natuur in Nederland
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
Painted Dog Conservation
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
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