Why are the Oostvaardersplassen not fully open to the public?
A large proportion of the reserve consists of marshland and is therefore not properly accessible to humans. Furthermore, it is home to many wild animals that need peace & quiet and space. However, there are options for visiting the area. You could take part in one of the 400 excursions that Staatsbosbeheer annually organises. And individual walkers can also enter part of the preserve: a 5 kilometre walk has been set out which starts at the Information centre. There is also a path from the Knardijk to the bird hide ‘De Grauwe Gans’ (The Greylag Goose).
Why is the area grazed?
Without grazing, this fertile area would become completely overgrown, particularly by rapidly growing species such as willows and reeds. The latter two leave little room for other species. Grazing creates open areas which allow a variety of vegetations to take hold. In turn, the latter allows many more species of plants and animal to find a suitable habitat for themselves. In other words: grazing is good for biodiversity.
Why do the animals not receive supplementary feed?
Supplementary feeding seems animal friendly, but the opposite is true. It creates unrest in herds because animals start competing for the suddenly available food. This stress saps the animals of energy. The feed ends up in the strongest animals. This does not benefit the weakest animals – the older and younger animals in particular – at all.
Animals’ metabolisms scale down during food shortages. They become less active and subsequently burn off less energy. Providing supplemental feed disrupts this natural mechanism and can, conversely, make the animals hungrier.
A low fat percentage leads to infertility in female animals. This means there are fewer births in the spring after a harsh winter. This is how nature keeps itself balanced. Conversely, supplementary feeding leads to too many animals being born which means food shortages will occur more rapidly.
Supplementary feeding also makes the animals active during a period in which they are not active naturally. This leads to births in what is basically an unsuitable season.
Why are cadavers left lying around?
Cadavers are very valuable as they provide nutrition to a whole range of organisms, thereby contributing positively to biodiversity. Most people will never see a dead animal because they are cleaned up so quickly and efficiently by nature.
At the moment at the Oostvaardersplassen, the red deer cadavers are conspicuous. This is because the wild horses and cattle are still subject to the Disposal of Animal Carcasses Act and – for the time being – still have to be removed as much as possible. The Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (VWA) issued a positive recommendation for a trial that involves leaving a number of horse/cattle cadavers out. The Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation will make a decision on this.
How long is the cadaver out for?
This depends on various factors including temperature, humidity, sunlight and visibility. Naturally, in sub-zero temperatures, a cadaver will stay intact longer. Conversely, if conditions are hot and damp, a cadaver can disappear inside a matter of days. It will have been re-incorporated into the food chain. The bones will be left behind, but they too will disappear over time.
Livestock or wild animals?
All the animals at the Oostvaardersplassen, including the red deer, Heck cattle and konik horses are wild animals. No one owns them. They are not ‘tended’ or ‘held’. The way management is set up at the Oostvaardersplassen is such that natural processes are not interfered with by humans and that the large grazers that occur there are part of that ecosystem. In 2007, the Court in The Hague confirmed this and determined the animals are not’ held’. At other nature reserves, large grazers are considered a replacement for human site maintenance. Those animals are ‘livestock’.
Why are animals shot?
Most wild animals die a natural death. This applies to rabbits, birds, foxes, basically every wild animal that is not killed by hunters or dies in a traffic accident. Nevertheless, we seldom see them as animals hide towards the end of their lives and are subsequently, rapidly and efficiently ‘cleaned up’ by natural processes.
The animals at the Oostvaardersplassen all die natural deaths. However, Staatsbosbeheer has opted to not wait for large grazers to die, but to shoot them when there is no chance of recovery. Guidelines and meticulous decision matrices have been drawn up to guarantee this, and there is constant contact with a veterinary supervisory committee.
The social debate on this subject continues to be intense and emotional. Taking the current procedures into account, we strive to ensure that - in most instances - the animals do not suffer unnecessarily.
What is this nature policy’s objective?
The objective is to provide room for natural dynamics. Natural processes are always in motion and an entirely stable situation will never develop. Animal numbers, the species which occur in the area and poor and rich periods will always be subject to natural fluctuations. Limiting human intervention as much as possible allows nature to choose its own path. This has led to a unique nature reserve where the cycle of life can clearly be seen.