Wildlife returning to Amsterdam
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