Syrian refugee elected carnival prince in the Netherlands


Prince Ali making carnival clothes, NOS photo

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands, 5 February 2016:

Carnival Prince Ali from Aleppo

Ali came eighteen months ago to the Netherlands as a refugee from Aleppo, now he is one of the princes of Maastricht. The 21-year-old Syrian will from tomorrow on be carnival prince Ali the First in Maastricht during Vastelaovend – as they call carnival in Limburg province.

We walked along for a day with him, while the final preparations for the carnival were done.

Ali is the prince of the temporary carnival society Common Carnival, an initiative of Limburg art students to create integration by means of carnival. Maastricht people and asylum seekers together make a carnaval float and costumes. Besides students also other inhabitants of Maastricht are welcome to participate.

It is not the first time that he celebrates carnival. Last year he was in Eindhoven, but before that he celebrated it in Syria. “We celebrate it as well with wagons in many different colours. People then drink on the street,” says Ali. “The difference between carnival here and in my country is that it only lasts one day there and here it continues for three days.”

That excessively alcohol will be drunk is no problem according to Ali. “The image that many people have is that we are all strict Muslims. There are eighteen religions in Syria, but few people here know that. We are very open-minded people.”

Ali himself says he will drink some beer, but not too much. “With the music we will keep ourselves under control. We are going to make something beautiful!”

Rare cornfield ants near Dutch Maastricht


This video from the USA is called Cornfield Ants, Lasius alienus, Social Behavior and Dispersal.

Translated from Stichting Bargerveen in the Netherlands:

Jan 28, 2016 – In the Netherlands cornfield ants are very rare inhabitants of calcareous grasslands. Last summer, the species was found by employees of Foundation Bargerveen on the Sint-Pietersberg [Mount Saint Peter; mountain near Maastricht]. Is the modification of vegetation by mowing and grazing here now bearing fruit?

Rare species

The cornfield ant (Lasius alienus) is a very rare species in South Limburg. Until 2004, the species was only known from the Bemelerberg hill. During research into the effects of grazing in the Popelmondedal valley, the southern slope of Mount St. Peter in Maastricht in 2015 by Stichting Bargerveen effects on ants were also examined. Great was the surprise when during the identifications of the catches this winter several cornfield ants were found. This species was totally absent in the intensive monitoring of the Popelmondedal in 2006 and except for an unconfirmed catch from 2012 this typical calcareous grassland species had never been previously reported from Mount St. Peter.

Helping Dutch wall lizards


This is a wall lizard video from Switzerland.

Wall lizards are very rare in the Netherlands. They only live at old military forts around Maastricht city.

‘Development’ plans in Maastricht threaten the animals.

However, the Dutch RAVON herpetologists have managed to change the plans in ways favourable to the Maastricht wall lizards.

The Belvédèreberg hill, formerly a landfill, has been reconstructed for the wall lizards and slow worms.

Also, wildlife tunnels will be built to help the reptiles.

Beavers of Maastricht, the Netherlands


This Dutch video is about beavers in nature reserve De Kleine Weerd near Maastricht city.

The beavers of River Otter in Devon are allowed to stay if they are disease free, Natural England has announced. The beavers were first spotted in February 2014 and it is unknown how they got there: here.

World War I and animals, exhibition


Dog with gas mask during World War I

During World War I, millions of civilians died; though the percentage of civilians in total human deaths then was lower then it would become in later wars.

Millions of soldiers died; most of them conscripts, not volunteers.

And many millions of animals died; not one of them a volunteer. Marianne Lubrecht, exhibition organiser of the natural history museum in Maastricht, interviewed this morning on Dutch radio, estimated that ten million horses alone were killed in the war.

She told about an exhibition right now in her museum about the role of animals during the first world war. The military massively used animals. They tried to limit deaths a bit by providing some dogs (see photo at the top of this blog post) and horses with gas masks. However, that did not help much.

Other animals had not been enlisted by the military, but still played a role in the war. In and near the trenches, dead soldiers were often not buried; or, if they had been buried, incoming artillery grenades brought the dead bodies back to the surface. This attracted many rats feeding on the dead soldiers.

The Maastricht museum exhibition organiser also told about the role of wolves on the eastern front. There, wolves fed on dead soldiers, and sometimes attacked wounded soldiers. The enemy armies of the German and Russian empires decided to stop shooting at one another for one day; and to kill wolves instead. So, the Christmas truce of 2014 of Allied and German soldiers stopping to kill each other at least for Christmas was not the only ceasefire during World War I. Though the eastern front one was not because of peaceful motives, and decided by the top brass, not by the rank and file.

The exhibition attracts many visitors. Ms Lubrecht said she was trying to extend it beyond its originally planned final day of 4 January 2015; if museums from Belgium and elsewhere which had loaned items to Maastricht would agree with that.

Dinosaur age crab named after amateur paleontologist


Distefania vanrijsselti

This is a picture of the fossil crab species Distefania vanrijsselti; discovered near Maastricht in the Netherlands; from the Cretaceous, when dinosaurs ruled the earth. It was not a big crab; the yardstick at the bottom of the picture is one centimeter.

Translated from Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands, 5 October 2014:

During many hundreds of Saturdays amateur paleontologist Willy Rijsselt, along with his son Erik could be found in the quarry ‘t Rooth, near Maastricht. He managed to secure an unprecedented amount of fossils for his own collection, but also for science. By way of tribute, there is now a 67 million year old crab named after him: the Distefania vanrijsselti.