Introduction

This website aims to give some background to the wild experiments taking place at Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands and to open up some themes for wider discussion.

For the last 28 years this 6000 ha polder has been subject to a novel form of environmental management. Herds of large herbivores – cattle, horses and deer – have been ‘de-domesticated’ – let loose to ‘rewild’ the land through their grazing ecologies. The animals roam, feed, breed and die within this bounded site with minimal management intervention. Some of the cattle here were back-bred in an effort to simulate their extinct ancestors and these efforts continue today.

Google map: OVP in context

The aim is to create a ‘Serengeti behind the dikes’ (Van den Belt 2004) that approximates the paleoecology of a Pleistocene Europe. Connected to a pan-European ecological network this will become a key node in a new and ambitious geography of Wild Europe. Situated below sea-level and kept dry through engineering and pumping this is a novel ecosystem with a surprising ecology. Oostvaardersplassen is a controversial experiment that is generating important and interesting debates with and beyond the Netherlands on the nature of wildness and how we might live well with it.

On the other pages of this site you will find discussions of a range of themes that we believe are interesting in relation to OVP. There is also a resources page with a collection of existing publications and links to relevant organisations and further materials. We are hopeful that this site will engender comments and discussion, as we are still trying to make sense of what is going on here.

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