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Fighter for Bird Protection

Obituary: Committee founder Dr Inge Jaffke

Dr Inge JaffkeDr Inge JaffkeInge Jaffke devoted her life to bird protection. In 1975 she gathered like-minded people around her and founded the Komitee gegen den Vogelmord. The aim of the organisation was to protect wild birds against persecution by hunters, bird trappers and traders in wild birds. At that time, especially for a woman, a great deal of perseverance was needed to combat such powerful and well-organised opponents. The word compromise did not exist in her vocabulary – she was resolute and direct. At some ministerial hearings her explosions often caused other participants to duck for shelter. Before taking part in negotiations she set herself high objectives and thereby achieved far more for nature and wildlife conservation than the ‘Compromise Charlies’ as she called her negotiating partners, had ever anticipated. She was undoubtedly the right woman, in the right place, at the right time. Without her contribution a great deal of nature protection and hunting legislation in Germany and Europe would be very different today.

One of Inge Jaffke’s particular concerns was to put an end to bird trapping and wild bird trade in Germany. In the 1970s trapping of wild birds with nets for the domestic cage bird industry was still permitted. So-called ‘bird-lovers’ caught Goldfinches, Bullfinches and other finch species for breeding purposes to meet the huge public demand for cage birds. Under the direction of Dr Jaffke the Committee was able to prove in numerous studies that a large number of the alleged breeders were in fact trading in wild birds. Inge Jaffke herself, with a great deal of subterfuge, carried out research in bird trader circles and was responsible for the prosecution of not a few illegal traders. This caused the market in wild birds to collapse and eventually a complete end to legal trapping.

Dr Inge Jaffke (centre) on a visit to the Committee’s Raisdorf nature reserves in 2006 (with, from l.- warden E.-A. Schulz, Committee President  H. Schwarze, General Secretary  A. Heyd and former Treasurer H. Schlitte)Dr Inge Jaffke (centre) on a visit to the Committee’s Raisdorf nature reserves in 2006 (with, from l.- warden E.-A. Schulz, Committee President H. Schwarze, General Secretary A. Heyd and former Treasurer H. Schlitte)Another important project for the Committee founder was the campaign against hunting in the Wadden Sea, on the outskirts of her home city Hamburg, where tens of thousands of sea birds and seals were killed annually. The end of hunting in the Wadden Sea in 1985 was one of her greatest successes.

The purchase of a chain of ponds and valuable wet meadows in Raisdorf (near Kiel) was another of Inge Jaffke’s great achievement s. She organised the funding of the project, integrated the local Raisdorf nature protection organisation into the Committee, and thereby laid the foundation stone for the more than 70 hectare nature reserve that we manage in this part of Schleswig-Holstein today.

From the very start Inge Jaffke also concentrated on international nature and wildlife conservation. She was the first outsider to make contact with the local bird protection organisations in Belgium and Italy and on Malta, and therefore initiated what are today our most important campaigns and operations in Europe’s illegal hunting hotspots. But her most telling achievements were perhaps around the negotiation table in Bonn and Brussels where, in the 1970s, she fought for standardised bird protection legislation in Europe. With expert legal opinions, and support from a team of conservation professionals, the Committee played a significant role in the development of the European bird protection guidelines, still today the most important building block for nature conservation in the EU.

As executive vice-president Dr Jaffke steered the course of the Committee for over 20 years. Until 1996 Committee’s offices were housed in her medical practice in Hamburg where she frequently spent more time on bird protection than on dentofacial surgery. In the mid-1990s a generation change took place in the leadership of the Committee, accompanied as is often the case by differences of opinion. As however her successors continued to pursue her principles and objectives it was not long before Inge Jaffke was reconciled with the new order. She remained until her decease the only honorary member of the organisation and one of its major donors and advisers.

Dr Inge Jaffke died in Hamburg on 31 October 2012 aged 86.