by Ron de Bruin
On October 28, Henk Zwartepoorte died unexpectedly while on holiday in Australia. He was 67 years old. Henk was a passionate leader in the turtle conservation community. Because of his friendly and approachable nature Henk had an extensive network of people involved in turtle care, biology, and conservation around the world. Henk started his career as an animal caretaker in the Rotterdam Zoo, where he later became curator of the reptile and amphibian collection. Under his guidance, the Rotterdam Zoo became a leader in reptile and amphibian breeding and conservation.
Henk has been involved with the TSA since its foundation in 2001 in Fort Worth, TX and he was chairman of TSA Europe.
In 1994 Henk initiated the Dutch Studbook Foundation, aimed at conserving threatened chelonians and other taxa. His efforts to promote breeding programs resulted in the adoption of studbooks by several European countries, which lead to the creation of the European Studbook Foundation, of which Henk was the president from 2003 until 2016. He strengthened the link between the European Association of Zoos, Aquaria, and the European Studbook Foundation. This contributed to bridging the gap between zoos and private keepers, both of whom could participate in the studbooks.
Henk was a tireless promoter of conservation philosophy. He was involved in many conservation projects around the world and played a pivotal role in distributing chelonians that were seized by authorities around the globe.
After his retirement from the zoo two years ago, Henk started with the realization of his dream, the ReHerp Foundation (www.reherp.com), an organization that cares for and breeds highly endangered reptiles and amphibians with the aim to eventually reintroduce them to their original habitat in cooperation with the local population. Unfortunately, he will never witness the completion of the ReHerp facilities in the beginning of 2017.
Henk was not just an icon in his field of expertise, he was a good person with high moral standards and above all, a nice guy.
We will miss him incredibly in all his various capacities. On behalf of the TSA Europe I want to wish his wife Mary strength to bear this great loss.
We will all miss Henk.
Ron de Bruin
Photo credit: Rob Doolaard, Rotterdam Zoo