Konik horses have to give way to harrier: animals from Oostvaardersplassen to slaughter | Lelystad

Konik horses have to give way to harrier: animals from Oostvaardersplassen to slaughter | Lelystad
Konik horses have to give way to harrier: animals from Oostvaardersplassen to slaughter | Lelystad

About ninety konik horses from the Trekweg area, near the Oostvaardersplassen, have to make way for cattle. Some move to Germany, some are slaughtered. The reason for this departure: the harrier.

“The Trekweg area must above all become a habitat for the harrier,” says Joke Bijl, spokeswoman at Staatsbosbeheer. “These birds of prey like to eat mice, so it is important that they feel at home there too.”

The Konik horses were transferred in 2019 from the overcrowded core area of ​​the Oostvaardersplassen. By grazing, the animals had to provide a suitable living environment. But the opposite has happened and so they are being replaced by cattle.

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Balance in natural landscape

The grazing behavior of the Konik horses meant that there was insufficient variety in the planting. “Horses bite the grass short and do not eat rough plants such as thistles, ground elder or nettles,” explains Bijl.

The result: there are areas of land with very short grass and parts where it is invasive with rough vegetation, without a good transition between these areas. That’s not nice for mice and harriers.

Staatsbosbeheer exchanges the horses for cattle and hopes to achieve the desired result in this way. Cattle pull the grass out of the ground with their tongues. The grass stays longer. This reduces the difference between low and high planting.”

Not first move

If you wonder why cattle were not immediately placed in the Trekweg area, you have to go back to a decision from four years ago.

In 2018, a target number was determined for the core area of ​​the Oostvaardersplassen per animal species. This means that hunters are allowed to shoot the surplus of deer, for example. In this way, the nature reserve remains in balance.

When there were more konik horses than allowed in 2019, some of the ungulates were moved to the Trekweg area. Two birds with one stone, was the idea: no horses need to go to the slaughterhouse and they help nature.

‘Through trial and error’

How horses graze has been known for a long time, so why didn’t Staatsbosbeheer see this problem coming in advance? “The diet of horses differs per area. It depends on several things: the type of food and what other animals live there,” explains Bijl.


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It goes by trial and error, shall we say

Joke Bijl, Staatsbosbeheer

She continues: ,,It was unclear what the Trekweg area would look like with the Konik horses, so we decided to look at the situation after a few years.” Staatsbosbeheer finds it annoying that things are now going wrong. “But it goes by trial and error, shall we say.”

Manure at Natura 2000

In view of the nitrogen discussion and reduction of livestock, it seems strange that Staatsbosbeheer opts for more cattle close to a Natura 2000 area. According to Bijl, that’s okay. “There are fewer animals on a larger piece of land, so that everything is spread better,” she says.

Moreover, according to Bijl, the combination of poo and pee is a particular problem. “In a stable, it ends up in the same place, creating ammonia. Not all urine mixes with the manure in a nature reserve.”

Emigration to Germany

About ninety horses lived in the Trekweg area. About two-thirds have been transferred to a German organization in the Thuringian Forest. A family group of more than thirty animals had to be slaughtered.

Enigmatic cattle

The new residents of the Trekweg area will not live there all year round. “Unlike the horses, which roamed around all year round, the cattle will do that part of the time,” says Bijl. “That is better for the plants and flowers.”

It is still uncertain when the animals will be seen. “First we have to find a provider who wants to let them graze in the area.” It is also unclear how many cattle will be placed. Even what kind will fill his stomach is unknown. Although: “They will be robust varieties.”



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The article is in Dutch

Netherlands

Tags: Konik horses give harrier animals Oostvaardersplassen slaughter Lelystad

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