Managing a Conservation Area Protected Under EU Law
© Tierpark Nordhorn
To manage a conservation area in Germany by grazing with an old sheep breed
The 96 hectares nature conservation area “Brandlechter Vechtetal und Tillenberge“
is located about 4 km south-east of the City of Nordhorn in Lower
Saxony. The area is of special importance as it preserves the
characteristic sequence of valley ground, valley slopes and dunes of
the valley edge, of the Vechte River Valley, which can hardly be found
in this form anywhere else in Germany. The valley ground is covered
with hardwood riverine forest following the Vechte River and its
oxbows, and with permanent grassland, which is being replaced towards
the slopes by mixed deciduous forest with oaks and beeches. The
“Tillenberge” inland dunes to the north-east of the river are
characterised by heath with stands of juniper.
The old juniper heath, about 20 ha in size, is protected already since 1936. However, forest encroachment led increasingly to a loss of the characteristic heath flora comprising a.o. juniper (Juniperus communis), heather (Calluna vulgaris), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) and cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix).
To avoid disappearance of the heath landscape, Nordhorn Animal Park
took on the task to manage the juniper heath as from January 1996. The
main instrument for achieving this target is a herd of 50-100
“Bentheimer Landschafe” cared for by the animal keepers of the Animal
The Landrace of Bentheim is an old breed of local sheep. It is the largest of the German heath- and- moor sheep with long legs and hard hoofs. A slender, long head, and woolly tail, characterize this breed. The Bentheim sheep is highly endangered and the project thus also serves the purpose of preserving this culturally valuable domestic breed.
Staff of the Animal Park, people doing civilian in lieu of military service, unemployed people funded by the local labour office, and volunteers, carry out maintenance and landscape conservation measures such as felling of trees, or removal of weeds. This is done in collaboration with the authorities of the Bentheim County.
In 2001, the conservation area was enlarged from 16 to 96 hectares. The area managed by the Nordhorn Animal Park is now part of the larger FFH Area 316 “Tillenberge” under the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive of the European Union.
The in situ activities of the Animal Park are complemented by an educational programme.
WAZA Conservation Project 08028 is implemented by the Nordhorn Animal Park in collaboration with the authorities of the Bentheim County.
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© Tierpark Nordhorn