In memoriam: Jan Rooth

27/03/2003

JAN ROOTH - R.I.P

With the recent death of Jan Rooth, a man who had been involved in the Convention since its earliest days, Ramsar has lost another of its oldest supporters and warmest advocates.

As a waterbird biologist from the Netherlands, Jan took part in the fabled MAR Conference held in the Camargue in 1962, the first occasion when the call went out for the establishment of a binding intergovernmental treaty on conservation and wise use of wetland habitats. He was deeply involved in the technical measures for the preparation of the Convention text in the 1960s and of course in the Conference held at Noordwijk in his home country in 1966, which did so much advance agreement on the text of the Convention. He attended the inaugural conference at Ramsar in 1971 representing the Dutch Government as head of the Department of Ornithology of the Research Institute for Nature Management (RIN), and indeed many of the subsequent Conferences of the Parties. He was a particular stalwart at meetings of IWRB (the International Waterfowl Research Bureau, now Wetlands International); a special feature of these meetings was Jan's gentle and humorous heckling of speeches by the IWRB Chairman, Geoffrey Matthews, when Jan thought Geoffrey was getting too serious.

In addition to support for the international technical work of the Ramsar Convention, Jan was deeply involved in the many wetland conservation initiatives in his home country. There is scarcely a Netherlands wetland project over the last thirty years which does not bear the mark of his enlightened intervention. Jan leaves a solid body of work published under his own name including contributions on the waterbirds of the Netherlands, notably in the famous Wadden Sea, now entirely listed as a Ramsar site, and his particular international speciality was the flamingo which he studied in the Caribbean sites where the Netherlands has had a tradition of interest.

Yet Jan was a man of many parts, not just a crusty old scientist with a sense of humour. He saw conservation of birds and wetlands as a social and cultural issue, of relevance to everybody, and was therefore always specially pleased to work for a scientific institute under the authority of Netherlands Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Social Affairs (as it then was). Since his retirement, he and his wife Henny had been able to indulge in their interest in travel and cultural monuments. The announcement of his death called him a "Biologist, Nature Conservationist and Art Lover". A fine tribute to a man who brought a ray of sunshine into the lives of all who knew him. Our sympathies go to his wife Henny and daughter Dorien who were with him until the last.

-- Mike Smart
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