Wildlife re­turn­ing to Am­s­ter­dam

The Sun (Malaysia) - - GOING PLACES -

SEALS peep from Am­s­ter­dam’s fa­mous canals, while rare bats hud­dle in the eaves of houses, next to nest­ing birds.

Wildlife – of the an­i­mal kind – is on the rise in the teem­ing Dutch cap­i­tal. More than 10,000 dif­fer­ent an­i­mal species roam the city’s nooks and cran­nies, shar­ing space al­ready packed with around 800,000 Am­s­ter­damers and mil­lions of an­nual tourists, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

And it ap­pears to be an ex­o­dus out of the coun­try­side, pro­vid­ing a po­tent il­lus­tra­tion of the nat­u­ral world’s ex­tra­or­di­nary re­silience, ex­perts and sci­en­tists say.

Since 2012 small grey or brown furred har­bour seals have oc­ca­sion­ally been known to travel down from the North Sea coast, ar­riv­ing in Am­s­ter­dam af­ter slip­ping through locks at the town of IJ­muiden and swim­ming down the North Sea Canal to the city.

And on a rare oc­ca­sions a lucky few spot the big­ger grey seals, a pro­tected Euro­pean species with their dis­tinc­tive mot­tled coat, or even the oc­ca­sional por­poise.

“Bio­di­ver­sity in Am­s­ter­dam has in­creased in the last decades, which has not been the trend na­tion­ally or even in­ter­na­tion­ally,” said Geert Tim­mer­mans, head of the city’s ecol­ogy and land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture project.

The new study of Am­s­ter­dam’s bio­di­ver­sity shows more than a quar­ter of all an­i­mal species liv­ing in The Nether­lands, in­clud­ing some 300 pro­tected kinds, are found in the densely pop­u­lated city.

Part of the re­cov­ery of bio­di­ver­sity is at­trib­uted to a ban on us­ing pes­ti­cides to con­trol weeds, as well as on farm­land be­yond the city lim­its.

“Na­ture al­ways ex­ists. It adapts, it uses new sit­u­a­tions to en­sure that it can in­stall it­self,” said bi­ol­o­gist Jelle Reumer, the for­mer di­rec­tor of Rot­ter­dam’s mu­seum of nat­u­ral his­tory.

He cre­ated waves ear­lier this year by sug­gest­ing that peo­ple should not try to in­ter­vene to save en­dan­gered an­i­mals like the panda or rhi­noc­eros, but should al­low things to evolve nat­u­rally.

“Ex­tinc­tion is nor­mal. More species have be­come ex­tinct through­out ge­o­log­i­cal his­tory than are alive to­day,” Reumer, a pro­fes­sor in Earth Sci­ences at Utrecht uni­ver­sity, told AFP.

It is Am­s­ter­dam’s leafier, wet­ter out­skirts which have proved the most fer­tile ground for an­i­mals look­ing to set up home. Nat­ter­jack toads, red squir­rels, foxes and voles along with the blue-winged grasshop­per can be spot­ted try­ing to keep out of the clutches of birds of prey like hawks and pere­grines.

A so­prano pip­istrelle bat was spot­ted in Am­s­ter­dam for the first time last year, while there is “a cau­tious re­cov­ery” of the swift and spar­row pop­u­la­tion which had gone into de­cline.

But other ex­perts ar­gue the sit­u­a­tion is much more com­plex and it is hard to com­pare ecosys­tems. – AFP

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