SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Five people have been arrested during a demonstration at the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve near Almere where protestors were attempting to give extra food to hundreds of wild horses, deer and cattle which are facing starvation.
The five were arrested after demonstrators broke through a fence which had been erected to keep them off the reserve, close to the visitors’ centre. Some 200 to 300 people, including children and pensioners, had gathered for the protest. Dutch magician Hans Klok was also among the crowd.
By 2pm most of the demonstrators had left the site, police said. The demonstration began on Sunday morning when some 20 protestors caused jams to form on the A6 motorway by driving slowly, until ordered off the highway by the police.
Last month the forestry commission Staatsbosbeheer and provincial council agreed to start emergency feeding programmes to stop mass starvation, but the demonstrators say this is not enough. Large mammals were introduced in the reserve in the 1980s and 1990s in what has proved to be a controversial move.
Reserve wardens hoped that the deer and ponies would eat young shoots, keeping the area open so it will attract geese and other wetland birds. However, the deer, pony and cattle populations have soared, and now hundreds of animals are shot every winter to ensure there is enough food for the remaining animals.
The protestors claim some 3,000 animals have died of starvation during this winter. They are unable to seek food elsewhere because the area is fenced off. The forestry commission says it will continue to provide extra food for the animals until the reserve’s vegetation recovers sufficiently. (DutchNews)