Not about everything

January 5, 2008

Nature photography scandals in the Netherlands

Again there is lots of talk in the Netherlands about misbehaving nature photographers. This time a fox has been shot by a nature conservation organization, because it had been tamed by nature photographers. The reasoning behind shooting the fox was that it could get dangerous for children, because it lost all fear for humans. Of course there is lots of discussion about the need to shoot the fox.

Nature photographers spraying tree frogs

Earlier in 2007 there was a scandal about some nature photographers spraying tree frogs with some substance (possible liquid nitrogen) in order to make a nice photo.

In the age of digital photography, it shows that the Dutch have a disturbed relation with nature. Nature in the Netherlands is perceived as a free Zoo.

Nature in the Netherlands
Here in the Netherlands we have replaced our nature long ago with parks. Some are called a National Park, giving the suggestion that it is wild nature. But it isn’t. Potentially dangerous animals have been killed long ago. All original forests have been cut, the last was the Beekbergerwoud (sorry, I could not find a link in English), destroyed in 1871.

Of course there are several organizations in the Netherlands that work on nature conservancy. Their work probably looks a bit different from the work of nature conservancy in other countries. Their work in the Netherlands is not nature conservancy, but natuurontwikkeling (= nature development, the Dutch wikipedia is the only one to have an article about this). It means in short that nature is being created. The big example for nature development is the Oostvaardersplassen, a wetland created in what was formerly a sea, but has been turned into land by dikes, pumps and mills. To make this area more natural, the nature conservancy organizations have released some big half-wild animals in there such as Konik horses and Heck cattle. And now this area is the Dutch pride of nature.


Not only is it the Dutch pride, it also serves as an example for management of other “natural” areas. That means that in areas that are called nature, projects have been done that include digging of lakes, releasing cattle, cutting of mono cultures of trees, releasing of beavers etc, all in an effort to create nature. At the same time the latest more or less natural area of the Netherlands, the Wadden Sea, is more and more being exploited for economic purposes.

You might understand that the Dutch have a very interesting relation with “nature”. Nature isn’t wild and dangerous. Our nature is a garden. We are building things like a “fauna passage” under highways to connect one area to another (see photo). In this case on one side of the highway there is a city park and on the other side there is agricultural land.

It is not that such areas are totally uninteresting. Last year (2007) I photographed over 20 species of dragonflies in the city park (see here). But it is just a park. We, the Dutch, have not much better left when it comes to nature.

It might come as a surprise, but actually the Dutch approach to nature conservation serves as an international example. More and more countries loose their natural nature. The pressure of the ever-growing number of people and their ever-growing economic activities pushes nature back everywhere. And because here in the Netherlands we have nothing left to loose when it comes to nature, we are in fact the front runners of nature conservation. The current situation here might be the future for all countries. So people come here from abroad to see how the Dutch recreate nature. How the nature conservancy organization try to raise interest in nature and how they use iconic species as representatives for ecosystems.

The Tree Frog and the King Fisher have gotten an almost holy status. The side effect is however that every nature photographer needs to make a photo of these species. I have read questions on forums from people who wanted to photograph a king fisher, even though they had never seen one in their life. There are currently ab0ut 450 King Fishers in the Netherlands. Each of them must have been photographed hundreds of times. There are special excursions organized for nature photographers to areas where Tree Frogs can be found. People pick them up to put them on blackberries and other spots that will make a good photo. Others don’t, but their photos are considered suspicious anyway.

Photography nature reserves
Maybe the best is to create special semi-natural areas for nature photographers. A bit like a zoo, but it should look a bit more natural. Next to it an animal nursery where iconic species are bred and released into the area. Photographers pay an entrance fee and can walk around and photograph the animals. If they happen to harm some individuals, it does not matter that much.


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