On Thursday, the 14th of April, it is exactly 50 years ago that AAP (Animal Advocacy and Protection) was founded in The Netherlands. At first, all kinds of exotic animals were taken in at the home of founders Okko and Riga Reussien. Two years later, the animals were moved to a more spacious location: an old greenhouse in Amstelveen. Today, AAP runs two large rescue centers: since 1996 in Almere, the Netherlands and since 2009 also in Villena, Spain. The animal welfare organization also advocates across Europe for a better regulation of the exotic pet trade, as well as to end the use of wild animals in circuses and to effectively fight illegal wildlife trade. Where does AAP stand today and what are the targets for the future?
In those 50 years, approximately 4,850 animals have been taken in at the AAP rescue centers. At least 1,794 primates (including 87 chimpanzees) and 1,727 other mammals were brought to AAP. In 2016, AAP also started rescuing big cats, 61 of which have been rescued in recent years. Because it was only decided in the mid-90s that AAP would specialize in exotic mammals, no fewer than 1,026 reptiles, 292 birds, 7 amphibians and 1 insect are also recorded in the archives.
The mission of AAP is to end the suffering of exotic animals in Europe. This cannot be done through rescue and rehabilitation alone, but also requires better legislation to prevent exotic animal from enduring suffering in the first place. Over the past decades we have seen more and more EU countries take on the legislative solutions that we advocate for, such as Positive Lists to regulate the exotic pet trade and bans on the use of wild animals in circuses. We will continue to push for the legislative change we wish to see throughout the EU for as long as it is necessary, even if it takes another 50 years.
AAP director David van Gennep, who has been involved in AAP’s work since 1981: “It fills me with great pride that AAP is still gaining in strength and impact after so many years. This anniversary is a good time to realize how many animal friends – in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe – are standing next to us to help animals in need. And their numbers are increasing, even in uncertain times as we have noticed recently. If you see daily misery, exploitation and terrible animal suffering, that support is extremely important. Both the help in the form of donations or voluntary work and the moral support that resounds in messages, letters and actions from people. These ensure that we can cope with the flow of requests that come in every day. That we can offer the animals the care that they so desperately need. That we do not give up to achieve the goals we have set. Those friends made it possible that we can look back with pride on what we have achieved, but above all that we can look forward with confidence to the necessary work ahead of us.”