Pieter Gerbrand van Tienhoven (1875-1953), lawyer and naturalist, is the founder of the international nature conservation movement in the Netherlands. Van Tienhoven studied law and biology at the University of Amsterdam. After he conferred a doctor's degree in law in 1902 he officially worked in insurance, although most of his time he spent on national and international nature conservation. In 1946 the University of Amsterdam awarded him an honorary degree in science ("wis- en natuurkunde").
Van Tienhoven and Nature Conservation in the Netherlands
Inspired by his relationship with teacher en amateur-biologist Jac.P. Thijsse, Van Tienhoven became a member of the board of the 'Vereniging tot Behoud van Natuurmonumenten in Nederland' (Society for the Conservation of Nature Reserves) in 1905 and acted as Treasurer from 1907 until his death in 1953. Due to his courage and tenacity this society obtained many nature reserves in the Netherlands. Also as a member of several advisory committees of the Dutch government, Van Tienhoven promoted the conservation of nature. In 1932 he and Thijsse were members of the committee preparing the revision of the 1912 Bird Law. His keen interest in birds earned him his nickname 'Vogelenpiet' (Bird-Piet). For many years Van Tienhoven was the Vice Chairman of the 'Nederlandsche Vereeniging tot Bescherming van Vogels' (Dutch Society for the Protection of Birds). Van Tienhoven was involved in the foundation the 'Provinciale Landschappen' (the County Councils) and other regional organisations for the protection of nature in the Netherlands. He also played a major role in several organisations protecting historical buildings and cultural monuments like windmills. Apart from all this work he now and again found time to put on his backpack and take his cocker-spaniel Mona out to enjoy nature. When he died in 1953 he was cremated and his ashy remains were scattered on the former family estate 'Kampina'. Van Tienhoven always was the pivot of the Netherlands Commission for International Nature Protection. In his will he bequeathed the major part of his estate to the 'Vereniging tot Behoud van Natuurmonumenten in Nederland' and the 'Stichting tot Internationale Natuurbescherming' currently called the van Tienhoven Foundation.
Van Tienhoven and International Nature Conservation
Van Tienhoven attached great importance to the protection of large animals. His concern for the survival of such animals played a role in 1925 when founding the 'Nederlandse Commissie voor Internationale Natuurbescherming' (Netherlands Commission for International Nature Protection). The members of this commission were influential scientists, politicians, travellers and businessmen. Van Tienhoven tried to establish national non-governmental committees of a semi-official nature and consisting of locally influential people, because these - in his opinion - were better prepared for action than governmental bodies. The national committees in different countries should work together internationally. The Netherlands Commission for International Nature Protection had an important task in gathering data on endangered species and transmitting such data to conservation organisations in other countries. The Commission drew the attention of the Dutch government to abuses and urged them to take measures to combat these. Van Tienhoven had close contacts with members of parliament and ministers of the crown; he used his contacts to lobby for international conservation.
Van Tienhoven founded the 'Office International de Documentation et de Corrélation pour la Protection de la Nature'. This office had the task to collect and manage documents relevant to nature (conservation) from all over the world. It acted as an information and contact centre for scientists, conservationists, governments and other interested parties. In 1935 the Office had a library of 1850 volumes and 32,000 documents. The Office was set up in Brussels and was initially financed from sources in the U.S.A., Belgium and the Netherlands. The 'Stichting tot Internationale Natuurbescherming' (the Foundation for International Nature Protection, currently called the Van Tienhoven Foundation) was founded by Van Tienhoven in 1930, on the eve of a trip to the U.S.A., in order to obtain funds for the above mentioned Office and to act as the legal body of the Netherlands Commission for International Nature Protection. In 1948 The Swiss 'Schweizerischer Bund für Naturschutz' established the I.U.P.N. (Union Internationale pour la Protection de la Nature; the International Union for the Protection of Nature) at Fontainebleau, an international nature conservation body. During the foundation meeting of I.U.P.N. Van Tienhoven was elected honorary member.