As a followup on my post on human intervention in the food web, our Dutch correspondent JP reports that the harsh winter has killed a third of the animals in the Netherlands’ Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve. The Oostvaardersplassen is an interesting place – after the land was reclaimed from a lake (a “polder“) in 1968, managers introduced wild Heck cattle and Konik horses to prevent dense vegetation from taking over waterbird habitat. Now the Oostvaardersplassen “represents a wetland ecosystem that is not unlike those that would have existed on river banks and deltas previous to human disturbance.”
Twelve hundred of the estimated thirty-six hundred cattle, horses, and deer have perished from winter starvation. Scientists and managers have deemed the deaths normal. According to this poorly Google-translated article (which I quote directly since the translation is hilarious):
According to State, which administers the area, this is not to panic mortality of touch. “There are also many new animals born,” says forester Hans Breeveld. “The animals that no longer will make, we and we deliver them from their suffering.” The animals are ‘no additional winter food. With the support of the Cabinet and the Lower House is a few years ago agreed that nature are going to go in the Oostvaardersplassen.
Ecologist Frans Vera, at Wageningen University, supports this approach. He is a mortality of 30 percent not shockingly high. “Even though the 50 percent, then it’s good to do. Earlier that 25 percent is considered quite normal.”
However, according to JP and to the equally poorly translated comments, people are not very happy that the government is letting the animals die. They see the Oostvaardersplassen as more of a zoo than a wild space, since the terrestrial park of park is 1900 ha, or only 7.3 square miles. As one commenter says (again, poorly Google-translated):
Eight legal arguments and totally obsolete. There is no question of a chance to draw what is in nature or occurs. There is too little habitat that these animals in the harsh winter fully enclosed zitten.
So are these animals wild or are they in a zoo? And what then should be the human responsibility? Personally, I think the managers are doing the right thing to maintain a healthy population within the park’s carrying capacity. But similarly to the NJ dolphins, it’s hard to sit back and watch animals starving to death. I suspect issues like this will become more and more common as we enter…dum dum dum….THE MANAGED WORLD.