The Silver Carnation (1997)
Grounds for bestowal
In 1997, the founders, being Inge Bouman and Annette Groeneveld together with Jolanda Grosjean received the prestiges Silver Carnation Award from HRH Prince Bernhard .
The speech of HRH Prince Bernhard at the presentation of the Silver Carnation to Mrs I. Bouman
Dear Mrs Bouman,
Every wearer of the Silver Carnation knows about setbacks, lack of financial resources, and mental inertia. However, you have experienced all these to a extreme degree. You and your husband have undertaken something that often seemed a long tale of woe, a hopeless battle. You yourself did not see it that way, but outsiders thought differently.
Twenty years ago this was the situation. A subspecies of wild horses, the Asian Przewalski horse, has become extinct in the wild. There are still specimens in zoos, but ten generations of inbreeding has weakened them; and instead of infinite grasslands they know only iron fences. The animals are merely a shadow of their former selves.
Then a couple in Rotterdam decides to save them. Do these two people have any prestige? No, they are not even biologists; they do social work in what is now called a “disadvantaged area”. The first reaction such dilettantes receive is one which wavers between sympathy and pity. But if they aim for more they meet with barriers put up by pomposity or are led into a maze of subsidiary matters.
What was the aim of Jan and Inge Bouman? First and foremost, to breed a healthy Przewalski horse: by purchasing, on the basis of pedigree, a number of promising animals, so that they then could reproduce in natural reserves or semi-reserves. The setbacks, lack of money and mental inertia you have encountered all conspired to present you from achieving this. Anyone else would have been discouraged. But you saw this one mission, this simple aim. And you have achieved it.
Then a second objective came to the fore, the reintroduction of the horses into the wild. The suitable area was found in Mongolia; thanks to the Mongolian government and nature conservancy a grassland reserve of 60,000 hectares was made available. Twenty years from the start of your campaign, there are now 55 Przewalski horses trotting around in this area, and from the semi-reserves in the Netherlands new stock follows regularly. After all, the animals have to be prepared for life in the wild in stages.
In my diary it is written “the palmtree grows beneath the stone”. How heavy the stone may be, the young blade will eventually push it aside. This is what you have done; together with your husband. He died in November. But I cannot present the Silver Carnation to you, without mentioning his share. And with this I add a salute to all who have supported you, from Annette Groeneveld and Jolanda Grosjean to the many workers in Mongolia and the Netherlands. Wear your Carnation with pride: it is a flower which reflects the sun.
Translated by A. van Harten – Schoovers, sworn translator.