All year long, the Natuurhulpcentrum takes care of animals that are sick, injured or in need of help. The pressure on our centre keeps increasing and we are often short-handed. With over 5,000 admitted animals a year, the Natuurhulpcentrum is the largest wildlife shelter in the Benelux.
Every year we have to triple our efforts and we have to cope with the enormous workload during springtime. We have to process loads of young animals and the telephone literally never stops ringing.
Day and night, 24/7, during the whole year, the Natuurhulpcentrum is prepared to help injured wild animals in need of help. Our staff and our volunteers often stay on after their shift has ended, in order to get everything done on a voluntary basis. A titanic job of work if you study our patient list a bit more closely.
Wild European birds
Our centre takes care of hundreds to thousands wild, indigenous birds a year.
They get into trouble because of different reasons and with our help it is possible to release many of them back into the wild after a convalescence period. There are the young birds in the springtime, the botulism victims in the summer, poisoned or shot birds of prey in the hunting season and the many traffic victims the whole year round. The number of confiscated small songbirds keeps decreasing steadily, thanks to the continuous controls of the Department Bos en Groen (Forest and Green) and the Department Natuur (Nature Department) which increase the chance of being caught for the bird-catchers.
We regularly have to go and catch birds in large factory buildings. Usually birds of prey such as the sparrow hawk fly into such a building during the ‘blindness” of their hunt.
Tropical and domesticated birds
As well as indigenous wild birds we also regularly give shelter to exotic and domesticated birds.
It seems that for a lot of people the ordinary canary is completely out of fashion. Instead, people often buy multicoloured cockatoos, parrots, ostriches and other exotic birds to sentence them to lifelong (solitary) imprisonment.
This is a trend we certainly don’t applaud! The largest and most beautiful aviary that exists is open nature. On top of that, it’s free.
Indigenous wild mammals
Let’s pass to the wild, indigenous mammals. All year long the Natuurhulpcentrum accommodates a lot of wild mammals and this for different reasons.
During wintertime there are e.g. a lot of weakened hedgehogs that hibernate on our hedgehog attic. In the spring our incubators are crowded with young squirrels, stone martens, rabbits, hedgehogs, etc. We also regularly have to turn out at night for traffic accidents with deer. Unfortunately the chance of survival of these animals is very small because of the high traffic speed and the enormous stress sensitivity of these animals that can sometimes literally die of fear. Every year again a dozen of young foxes are admitted. The parents of these orphans were often shot or poisoned by hunters or were killed in traffic.
The stone marten does very well for itself. Actually that well, that it’s starting to cause a nuisance. A lot of people have these animals in their attic and are bothered by their noise. Fortunately we offer a simple and animal friendly solution (see problems with wild animals).
Exotic mammals and animals kept as a pet
The increasing number of exotic wild animals our centre has to accommodate is remarkable. You can probably clearly remember Simba, our lion? The large diversity of animals is striking. There really is no limit to what people will keep as a pet. And as long this interest continues to exist, malafide pet shops will take advantage of this need.
A lot of these animals are confiscated by the police but often they are simply given up by their desperate owner.
Especially for these often dangerous exotic wild animals the Natuurhulpcentrum has a separate wing with heavily secured cages and a quarantine ward which even has an underpressure system to prevent diseases or viruses from escaping.
Berber monkeys, chimpanzees, lions, wallabies, guinea pigs, fallow deer, java monkeys, raccoons, prairie dogs, white ear tufted marmosets, brushtail possums, ferrets, chinchilla’s, etc. These are all animals for which we have to find an animal friendly solution, and that is not always an easy task.
Indigenous reptiles and amphibians
We don’t have to accommodate amphibians that often. In most cases it concerns frogs or salamanders that have been found in the wrong place. There was that time we had to go and catch over 200 alpine newts from an old swimming pool. Some indigenous snakes such as the smooth snake are known to cause panic to people living nearby. Apparently a lot of people have forgotten that snakes are part of nature.
Exotic reptiles and amphibians
Furthermore there are the exotic reptiles and amphibians. The number of calls for snakes, monitor lizards, iguanas, spiders and scorpions continues to increase. There is no service in the whole country that is responsible for this. That is why the emergency services increasingly appeal to us. We even accommodated a fattail scorpion once, which turned out to be the most venomous scorpion in the world.
Snakes are also very dangerous. Not only because they can be venomous (they rarely are), but especially because they can cause a panic reaction in humans, which often is more dangerous than the snake itself. Boa constrictors, cornsnakes, pythons, black kingsnakes, these are just a small pick out of the many exotic snakes we accommodate every year.
The typical turtles are another problem. People buy such a small turtle, ignorant of the fact that it can grow to a considerable size. This makes it less fun and consequently people want to get rid of it. And the turtle is the one to suffer.
As you can see we have our hands full. Fortunately we can count on the support of thousands of people. Especially our members, but also volunteers, sympathizers, donors and government services.
Thanks to them the Natuurhulpcentrum can continue to help wildlife, day after day, year after year.