This December on the beaches of Vlieland (an island at the north of the Netherlands) gray seals bring up their offspring. The newborn pups are white. After about five weeks they start to get their adult colors and from that moment on, they are able to swim.
These seals live in the Wadden Sea, an intertidal zone in the southeastern part of the North Sea forming a shallow body of water with tidal flats and wetlands. It is rich in biological diversity.
In the Middle Ages gray seal were exterminated by humans in the Wadden Sea. Around 1950 the first gray seals were seen again in the Netherlands. Since the 1980’s their population is increasing to healthy levels. Gray seals are nowadays a protected species in the Netherlands.
As a landscape photographer, I want to find and photograph nature in (almost) pristine spots or places that have escaped urban or rural planning. When I return to a place that I’ve photographed before, it happens seldom that it has changed for the better. Many times, once beautiful places are gone forever due to greed of mankind.
WH Vliegenbos in Amsterdam used to be a small city forest with a wealth of biodiversity. After a brutal attempt to make the forest more attractive for visitors, it looks like a mutilated city park. The once rich undergrowth has been removed and the forest is ‘thinned’ of larger trees to give more light to smaller trees. This affects the bird population since smaller trees lack good nesting opportunities. With removing the undergrowth small animals – like hedgehogs – are disturbed during their hibernation and left homeless.
New cycling paths have been laid, which in itself is no that bad. As a base for the asphalt layer, toxic building waste is used containing plastic and other pollutants.
Why is this happening?
Why do people want to make a forest neat by cutting and growing it again? For millions of years nature could do very well without us. I suspect the city of Amsterdam is using park maintenance as an excuse to make money by selling wood as bio based fuel. To quote John Muir* “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fool”. I hope that my favorite city forest will recover in the years to come.
* A Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas.