Wolves set up home in Dutch national park, opinions are divided

Two female wolves have settled in the Hoge Veluwe nature reserve and a male is also thought to be roaming the area, according to woodland rangers. The area has been designated as a habitat for wolves, meaning there is evidence that the creatures have been living in the area for at least six months. Since the first wolf to be seen in the Netherlands since the 19th century arrived in 2015, the numbers have increased rapidly – four were seen in the three months between November 2018 and January 2019. Ecologist Hugh Jansman of Wageningen University was commissioned to investigate how many wolves were currently active in the province of Gelderland. After studying footprints, droppings and traces of blood he concluded in mid-March that two vixens had established themselves in the Kootwijk area. Jansman said the return of the wolf could be a boon for the area, where a lack of natural predators has led the area to become overpopulated and prompted rangers to carry out mass culls. 'We shoot 50% of deer and 80% of boar to maintain a socially acceptable level. I think the wolves could do a lot of good,' he said. Not everyone has welcomed the wolves to the Dutch landscape. Last month BIJ12, the organisation that handles compensation for wolf-related incidents, said eight sheep had been killed by wolf bites at the end of February. Jeroen Piksen, a provincial deputy for the CDA in Overijssel, said authorities should be able to shoot wolves in 'extreme cases'. Ranger Leo Linnartz said the Netherlands was 'an outstanding place' for wolves to settle but called for local and national governments to draw up policies to protect livestock, such as electric fences and guard dogs to alert farmers to the presence of a wolf. 'We've learned from Germany that wolves can be taught that catching sheep is pointless.' However, the director of the national park, Seger Emmanuel baron van Voorst tot Voorst, is against letting wolves populate the area. 'We are working hard on a daily basis to maintain the unique ecological balance of the park,' he told EenVandaag. 'There will be big consequences if we let the wolves in.'    More >

More Easter bonfires banned

Almost half the 120 traditional Easter bonfires planned for the holiday weekend in Overijssel province have been banned because the long drought and warm weather has increased the risk of the fires spreading. Enschedé, Dalfsen and Hardenberg have banned fires in several villages and in other places the celebrations have been adapted to take the risk into account, broadcaster RTV Oost said. The annual competition between the villages of Espelo and Dijkerhoek to build the biggest fire has also been scrapped, the broadcaster said. Local officials gave the fires the green light, on the condition they contain no more than 500 cubic metres of wood. This would allow a fire of just eight metres high, well below the usual height of 20 metres. Dozens of fires have also been banned in parts of Gelderland, broadcaster RTV Gelderland said. The habit of building massive outdoor bonfires for Easter is particularly popular in Gelderland and Overijssel.  More >

Minister gets tough on problem refugees

The government is to get tougher on would-be refugees who are causing problems in both refugee centres and places where they are based, junior justice minister Mark Harbers told MPs on Wednesday. The Netherlands currently has two centres for problem cases - in Heerenveen and in Amsterdam. Most of the residents come from safe third countries such as Morocco  and face deportation but have not yet been sent back. The measures which apply to the two centres - such as a curfew and a ban on visiting certain areas - have not sufficiently dealt with the problems being caused, Harbers said. The situation is worst in Heerenveen, and now the centre's residents are to be banned from more parts of town, including the local shopping centre. They will only now be able to visit a store on a supervised visit, the minister said. He is also drafting in extra personnel to help with the supervision. Harbers said he wants to speed up the assessment of asylum requests by people from safe countries, so they can be sent back as quickly as possible. The experiment with the special centres runs until the end of the year.  More >