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In memory of Joost van der Ven

Published on:
  • Asian Waterbird Census
  • International Waterbird Census
  • Species

Sadly Joost van der Ven passed away on 20 January 2021.

Joost has had a long history with Wetlands International over many decades. He served as Assistant Director (Development) of International Waterfowl & Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB), Slimbridge, UK, in the mid to late 1980s and as Interim Director of Wetlands International – Asia Pacific in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998-1999. He had also served as lead of the IWRB Crane Specialist Group and more recently, he served as an Associate Expert of Wetlands International providing valuable guidance and support.

Joost van der Ven in Malaysia 2018 (by Ting Lan Chiee)

Joost loved nature and had started work as an inspector for Nature Conservation in the State Forestry Service in the Netherlands. His great passion for life and birds (especially cranes) was clearly evident while he worked with the Agriculture-Nature-Conservation-and-Fisheries Office in the Dutch Embassy in Moscow (between 1989 and 1995). This allowed him to play a pivotal role in fostering and promoting international cooperation for bird research between Russia and the Netherlands and Europe. Through his contacts and drive for conservation he has helped many nature conservation organisations over many decades, including by organising support for projects of Wetlands International, IUCN, WWF and BirdLife International in Russia and elsewhere in Europe, Asia and Africa. He was instrumental in promoting and organising several international conferences and meetings to promote international cooperation for conservation of migratory waterbirds and wetlands. He also served as president of the Dutch Society for the Protection of Birds.

Joost organised nature conservation projects and trips in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere in Central Asia to search for different birds, including the Bar-headed Geese and the Ibisbill. His great love for birds, explorer spirit and business acumen enabled him to organise and self-finance several expeditions into the interior forests and rivers of Myanmar in search for the famed Pink-headed Duck, a secretive species of South Asia that has not been reliably seen since 1949 in India, with a possible sighting in Myanmar in 2006. And while this species has not been reliably reported again, Joost had been contributing waterbird counts from little known places in Myanmar and elsewhere for several years. His sharp eye for detail ensured that the information was of the highest quality.

Many years prior to this, Joost had been instrumental in starting the Asian Waterbird Census in 1987. This required travelling constantly (for weeks and even months!) to Asia to meet with (wetland) scientists, crane “fanatics” and NGOs in order to raise their interest and to organize mid-January censuses at many famous wetlands in Turkey, Pakistan, India and south-east Asia. Joost quickly pulled together information from the first census into the Asian Waterfowl 1987 report that greatly helped to raise even greater interest and participation in the following years. Others were doing the same in Africa and Mediterranean spearheaded by IWRB. All this work was instrumental in initiating a new global initiative that has today become the famous International Waterbird Census programme.

Joost published several interesting books and papers, including “Looking at Birds in Kyrgyz Republic. Central Asia”, “ Roze is een kleur” about his search for the elusive Pink-headed Duck and “Cranes in Myanmar” (the latest published in 2020).

Joost was a very warm-hearted and generous person and a great friend to many in Europe, Asia and Africa. He had a great zest for life and even at the age of 80 years, he was still active and even planning travels to Myanmar and elsewhere.

Joost’s many contributions to nature conservation in Europe and Asia will be long remembered. He will be missed by many.

If you like to send a message, please use: c[email protected].

Lead image by Taej Mundkur.