Professor Jan A.R.A.M. van Hooff (Arnhem, 1936) grew up in Burgers Zoo, a “family ambition” started by his grandfather. He studied biology in Utrecht and specialised in ethology, the study of animal behaviour, under the guidance of Nobel-prize winner Nico Tinbergen in Oxford. He became known for his pioneering studies on the function and evolution of facial expressions in primates. He remained associated with Burgers Zoo as scientific consultant and the supervisor of scientific research. From 1980 until his retirement in 2001 he was professor in Ethology and Socio-ecology at the Universiteit Utrecht. Here he conducted research on social organisation and social processes in animal societies, such as the regulation and resolution of conflict in social groups. Species studied in his department were the social insects, and in particular the primates. The latter were studied both in captive colonies, such as the world famous chimpanzee colony of Burgers Zoo, and also in nature. Thus his department founded the Ketambe Research Station in the Gunung Leuser Reserve in North-West Sumatra, devoted to long-term socio-ecological studies on langurs, macaques and, in particular, the orang-utan. This confronted him with the gloomy prospects for our nearest relatives in the animal kingdon, the great apes. Their numbers dwindle everywhere because of habitat destruction and hunting. There is an urgent necessity to safeguard the ecosystems on which their survival depends.
Jan van Hooff is and has been a board member of numerous organisations and foundations, concerned with scientific research and nature conservation, e.g. president of the Royal Netherlands Zoological Society, founding president of the Netherlands Society for Behavioural Biology, secretary-general of the International Primatological Society, founding member and president of the Jane Goodall Institute of the Netherlands, honorary member of the Associazione Primatologica Italiana, president of the Society for Mammology and the Protection of Mammals, secretary and founding member of the Lucie Burgers Foundation for Comparative Behaviour Research, board member of the German Ethological Society, of the Scientific Council of the German Primate Center, of the scientific board of Tropenbos Foundation, of the Foundation "Prins Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation Utrecht University", etc. He has held guest professorships at the Universität Zürich and the École Nationale Supérieure in Paris. He is honorary professor at the Universitas Nasional in Jakarta. As an emeritus he enjoys the opportunities to transfer his fascination for his science to a broader public by giving lectures and courses, a.o. in Senior Academies (HOVO) at different universities. Van Hooff is a fellow of the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) and Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
Why I became ambassador of the Black Jaguar Foundation
I grew up in a zoo, Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands, and thus I became infected with a lifelong fascination for the wonderful creatures that share our planet with us. As a child, little could I expect that the existence of many of these creatures would be at stake barely three quarters of century later due to the exponential expansion of one dominant species, the human being. Whole ecosystems that, because to their size, seemed impervious to destruction, such as the tropical forests and savannas, are being fragmented and demolished at an alarming pace. At the apex of such systems and the first to disappear are the large predators. Their presence signifies the soundness and durability of the ecosystem. In South America this is the jaguar. I, therefore, sympathise strongly with the objective of the Black Jaguar Foundation, to take this rare and mysterious black beauty as an icon in its efforts to raise public concern and to mobilise forces to conserve the natural heritage of the south-american continent.
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