Tim Huijsmans

About me

My name is Tim Huijsmans. I’m a wildlife conservationist and veterinarian. I’m currently writing a PhD on maternal investment strategies in mammals at the University of Ghent. In 2012 I co-founded Faunawatch, an international operating animal welfare and conservation foundation. We are researching animal populations in multiple countries, giving education and have a turtle and tortoise shelter in the Netherlands.

Wildlife (artificial) reproduction, animal welfare and species distribution are my main interests.

My story

When I was 8 I saw Jane Goodalls’ documentary on chimpanzees and read a story about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya about a rescued baby elephant with a spear in his head. After these two events, I decided that I wanted to start a chimpanzee and elephant sanctuaries. I reached out to several sanctuaries and asked them what I should study to work in such a shelter and they advised me to become a wildlife veterinarian. That is how my dream to become a wildlife veterinarian started at 8 years of age.

As it was still a long way to go before I could start with my veterinary study, I decided to join a rescue centre for local wildlife and exotic animals, the closest thing I had to an elephant and chimpanzee sanctuary in my neighbourhood. At that time I was 12 years old. I mainly worked with the more exotic species or bigger wildlife.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t gain much experience with bigger wildlife or make a change on a bigger scale than for the individual animals. That’s why I founded at age 13 together with my younger sister Ivi the animal welfare and conservation foundation Faunawatch. Faunawatch works with a big team of volunteers on research and education projects in Asia, Africa and Europe.

At age 17 I started my first sanctuary. This was a sanctuary which would become part of the rescue centre where I was volunteering. It was a sanctuary for hedgehogs. I wrote protocols for the caretaking, cleaning, receptionists, etc. got a permit, organized sponsored enclosures and made sure that all the volunteers received education on the caretaking of a hedgehog.

After graduating from secondary school I started with my veterinary medicine bachelors in Antwerp, Belgium, followed by a masters at the University of Ghent, Belgium.

Achievements

Due to my activities for animals, nature and the environment, I was chosen by the Ministry of Foreign and Affairs as Dutch Worldimprover of the Year, received a youth ribbon, a green ribbon, was chosen as one of the 100 most inspiring young people under 25 and one of the 100 most sustainable innovative young people under 32, and received a laureate of the municipality of Ghent.