The Natuurhulpcentrum was founded in 1976. The initiative originated from the love of nature of a few young people. In the summer of 1976 the first small building was erected. This “garden house” of 6 by 3 m provided just enough room for a tiny desk and about four cages in which the first birds were accommodated. At that time our centre was still called “bird sanctuary”. Our first members, Stefan Ceyssens and Luc Gerard, were recruited in the summer of 1976. They also became our first co-workers.
In 1981 we changed the name “bird sanctuary” to Natuurhulpcentrum, and the de facto association was turned into a non-profit association. Year after year, we extended the facilities and in 1984 we erected a larger wooden building on the first grounds the municipality of Opglabbeek allowed us to use. In 1986 a somewhat larger metal building was constructed, which was extended in the early ’90. At that time, the first staff members were recruited. The number of patients increased year after year.
Thanks to the support of the municipality of Opglabbeek, the Province of Limburg, the Flemish District en the European Community we started constructing a larger and more solid building in 1995. It was officially inaugurated in September 1997 by Prince Laurent himself.
Around the turn of the century the need for shelter for all kinds of exotic animals increased. Animals such as snakes, apes, parrots and even a crocodile and a real live lion were accommodated. In 2003 we received the support from various public authorities and companies to start the construction of a new wing, especially equipped for the accommodation of tropical animals.
In 2007 a new expansion was inevitable, and we could arrange an additional ground with several outside cages, runs and animal houses.
Today, the Natuurhulpcentrum has become one of the largest European wildlife shelters. Its functioning is ensured by 12 staff members and some 100 volunteers.