Workshop bison and Human Interactions in combination with field excursion

Kraansvlak, Overveen, The Netherlands, 13 October 2009

In spring 2007 the PWN Waterleidingbedrijf Noord-Holland started with a pilot project with European bison (wisent) on the 200 ha sand dune area Kraansvlak, a closed-off area near the Kennemer Dunes (near Overveen / Haarlem), accompanied by scientific research. It is a cooperative project of PWN Waterleidingbedrijf Noord-Holland, Stichting Duinbehoud, ARK and Stichting Kritisch Bosbeheer (

Its aim is to acquire knowledge and experience with bison in the Dutch situation, the food strategy and the effects of the bison on the sand dune landscape, dune dynamics and dune vegetation. Besides the interaction between wisent and landscape, also the co-existence with other grazers as well as human visitors is being studied. After an acclimatization period, during which the animals could only be watched from a viewpoint or through the fencing, excursions into the area will be organized. The project will be evaluated after 5 years.

Bison are important as flagship species for example for ecological corridor projects, establishment of protected area as well as for re-wilding projects. People attitudes towards re-introduction and protection of large mammals are not always positive, especially in areas where species have become extinct a long time ago. Human Dimension has become an important science to address this issue in a scientific way.

On 13 October 2009 a workshop on the Human Bison relation has been held to share the experiences. The workshop was organised by the Large Herbivore Foundation (LHF), on invitation and in co-operation with PWN Waterleidingbedrijf Noord-Holland (Provincial drinkwater company for the province of North-Holland). A selected group of experts, who are - in a practical way - directly involved with new pilots in the Netherlands and neighbouring countries attended.

Room was given to discussions in the form of a workshop, to draw some outlines for the following phase; bison re-introduction in the Netherlands. We consider a follow-up next year for the policy makers and politicians.

Workshop report and pictures

Workshop program

We could not upload all presentations because of the size, please don't hesitate to ask for it.

1. Human dimension and large herbivores, Stephen Decker, Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Ontario, Canada

  • How can the human dimension approach help the nature manager of wild nature, and what are the experiences with HD, especially large herbivores in North America and Kraansvlak and other relevant projects?
  • Mental change in nature conservation and human attitude, fear, other nature, change in human use of the area.

POWERPOINT PRESENTATION: Human dimension and large herbivore

2. Experiences form abroad, Uwe Lindner, Taurus Naturentwicklung e.V.; Wittgenstein-Berleburg'sche Rentkammer

  • What are the experiences and perspectives for bison in Germany, Rothaargebirge?
  • How did HD help the process?
  • What where the main reasons why the project can now be implemente

POWERPOINT PRESENTATION: Taurus Naturentwicklung

3. Experiences and perspectives for bison in Germany near cities, Peter Nitschke, Sielmanns Naturlandschaft Doberitzer Heide

  • Example of the Doberitzer heide: how does the public encounter the bison? How will they encounter the bison in the future?

POWERPOINT PRESENTATION: Sielmanns Naturlandschaft Doberitzer Heide

4. Experiences from Sweden, Eriksberg, Tommy Svensson, Wildgehege Eriksberg, Schweden

  • People - bison interactions; why is bison important for Eriksberg?
  • How can people see the bison in Eriksberg? How close can they get to the bison? Any negative encounters?

POWERPOINT PRESENTATION:Bison re-introduction in Slowakia

5. Bison re-introduction in Slowakia, Michal Adamec - State Nature Conservancy. presented by Joep van de Vlasakker

  • The bison re-introduction started in 2003 was an ecological success.
  • The project has come to a hold due to objections from hunters and farmers.
  • HD and targeted communication in combination with international support can help the further implementation of the re-introduction.

6. How experiences in Western Europe and Eastern Europe can benefit from each other, Joep van de Vlasakker, LHF, Nature Conservation Manager

  • With our experiments in Europe we can demonstrate how to develop the bison' natural role.
  • Examples of conflicts between people and bison.

7. HD and bison in the Kraansvlak, Piet Veel, sector manager nature & recreation, PWN Waterleidingbedrijf Noord-Holland

  • Experiences so far with human attitudes,
  • behaviour of bison towards humans,
  • future plans for public access/HD

8. Afternoon workshop, Stephen Decker & Joep van de Vlasakker

Questions discussed: how to make it happen:

  • What arguments did you met in your situation against bison?
  • What do you think will be the negative arguments against free ranging bison in the Netherlands?
  • What target groups do we need to address?
  • How to find out what the real arguments/feelings are in the Netherlands against bison?
  • How to change negative feelings into positive feelings ?
  • Which HD tools do we need for reintroduction under Dutch circumstances?
  • What communication tools/techniques do we need?
Workshop bison Caroline Stravers

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