The campus geese

The campus is a place that everyone can call home – including our geese. When a group of wild geese landed on the Ganzenveld (‘Goose Field’, later named in their honour), they became part of the campus community. The strength of the University of Twente’s attachment to its geese was tested when the geese started causing serious problems – but the community just couldn’t say goodbye to them...

More than 30 years ago, a gaggle of 30 geese landed on the campus. The site, with all those lovely ponds and wide grassy fields, was just right for them, so they decided to make their home here. The fact that they had become as much a part of the campus landscape as the carillon and the Torentje van Drienerlo was confirmed during study association Scintilla’s jubilee celebrations: in 1990, to mark its 25th anniversary, the association designated the Snaterpad as a crossing point for ducks and geese between the water near the Faculty Club (then the Boerderij) and the pond by the Drienerburght. For safety reasons, traffic lights were installed, featuring the silhouette of a goose. At the official opening by Executive Board president Van Lookeren Campagne, it was not a goose but rather a duck that made the inaugural crossing... Actually, it was the casing of a Citroën 2CV ‘Duck’ model the organizers had had brought in. Alas, the Snaterpad and its goose-shaped traffic lights have since vanished from the campus.

For many years the geese had the run of the campus without any problems, but dangerous situations arose in 2012 when the viaduct was demolished and replaced by a road at ground level. The geese were used to crossing Ventweg on their way to enjoy the grass on the slope by the viaduct, and after the viaduct was demolished they stuck to their habitual route, continuing to cross the busy Hengelosestraat in search of the juicy grass on the central reserve. The university was faced with a dilemma: the geese were causing a traffic hazard, but a goose-free campus was unthinkable. Rien van Faassen from the Municipality of Enschede put it best: ‘The geese are a part of the University of Twente.’ The university agreed wholeheartedly. University of Twente spokesperson Bertyl Lankhaar stated that the geese had been a campus icon for as long as anyone could remember. ‘The geese appear in so many photos of the university.’

Ultimately, the situation was resolved with a ‘goose exchange’: the 30 original campus geese were relocated to the Wesselerbrink area of Enschede, while 30 Wesselerbrink geese took their place on the campus. Since the campus was a completely unfamiliar environment to the new arrivals, they could still be ‘trained’. Food was placed at strategic locations to show the geese where they should and shouldn’t go, and the strategy had the desired effect: the geese settled into a regular pattern and left Hengelosestraat alone.

The solution to the goose problem may have had another positive effect: some say the new geese are friendlier than the old guard, which in turn makes the campus a friendlier place to be.

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