Utrecht, April 2023 – Many people know Smart Parks as an organisation protecting wildlife with passion and technology… in Africa! Developing advanced rhino, elephant, and lion sensors and building LoRaWAN infrastructures in the remote African bush. However, what many people don’t know is that Smart Parks is actually very active in “our own backyard”: the Netherlands.

For years we have been working together with PWN in the Kennemerduinen and the Noordhollands duinreservaat. Together with FreeNature, an organisation managing large grazing herds in the Netherlands with a focus on restoring European ecosystems, we work together in the Maashorst, Verrebroekse Plassen, Waterlandtak-West en Slikken van de Heen. With Ark Rewilding Netherlands, we run a project tracking wisent in National Park the Veluwe.


In March 2021 we even collared a Nederlandse Landgeit (Dutch Landgoat, Capra aegagrus hicrus), an endangered goat species with only about 1074 left. The bright orange sensor is developed by the Norwegian company Telespor, which whom we will together in future projects. The herders of Grazend Populair, with their goats and sheep, roam the Dutch dune landscapes. They are engaged in sustainable rotation grazing, cruelty free sheep “skins” (which are not actual skins) and their herd consists of Drentse and Schoonerbeeker (heather sheep, Ovis aries) and the afore mentioned Landsgeiten, all threatened species!

More nature in The Netherlands

According to Ark Rewilding Netherlands: “The Netherlands deserves more nature. Because nature is beautiful, powerful, makes us wonder, breathe and relax. But also, because more and wilder nature helps prevent species extinction, slows climate change, reduces flooding and provides us with clean water and air.” At Smart Parks we could not agree more, but what is that “rewilding” exactly?

Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. The idea is that nature can take care of itself, enabling natural processes to repaid damaged ecosystems and restore degraded areas. Basically: let nature do its thing!

Art by Jeroen Helmer / ARK Nature

However, it is not all rainbows and butterflies. In our densely populated and urbanized little country, we cannot just stand back and hope for the best. We probably all remember the widespread outrage about the Oostvaardersplassen and more recently the public debate concerning the return of the wolf. Creating the right conditions is critical – removing dykes and dams to free up rivers, reducing active management of wildlife populations, allowing natural forest to regenerate and reintroducing species, such as the European Bison, that have disappeared as a result of man’s actions.

So, how is Smart Parks involved?

In order to create the right conditions for nature to do its thing, understanding the functioning of an ecosystem is crucial. A good example is the Kennemerduinen, where the European bison, cattle and horses play a driving role in the ecosystem and with the help of Smart Parks sensors they are collecting data and building knowledge on how exactly these animals use the dunes. In a country as densely populated as the Netherlands, humans and wildlife constantly interact. With more wildlife species returning on a larger scale to the Netherlands, potentially increasing tension between people and wildlife, it is important to think about how to enhance sustainable human-wildlife coexistence. Last week, the Smart Parks team was present at the WildlifeNL kick-off, an 8-year research project that proposes to develop an innovative interspecies communication approach to wildlife management in the Netherlands. By understanding how ecosystems function, we can enhance wildlife and nature, reaping the benefits of rewilding in our own backyard!

Smart Parks across the pond!

But, Smart Parks would not be Smart Parks if we would not look beyond our own backyard. Across the (small) pond Smart Parks was involved in the reintroduction of the European Bison (wisent) in the UK. The steppe bison is thought to have roamed the woodlands until hunting and changes in habitat led to its global extinction. The European bisons (Bison bonasus) that were released last July (2022) in Kent are descendants of this species and its closest living relative. A milestone in the project, led by Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust, that is aimed to restore an ancient habitat and its wildlife. Across the large pond (Atlantic Ocean) Smart Parks is involved in a contact tracing project together with Colombia University in New York. Researching New York City Wildlife, and they don’t mean rats, squirrels or pigeons 😉