Birds of Suriname

In 1671, Hans Rudolf Schlatter and Barbara Keller vom Steinbock, who lived in Switzerland, got their first child. He was named Johannes Jacobus. About 23 years later, this young man emigrated to the Netherlands, where he eventually became the rector of the Latin School in Kampen. At some point in time his surname was rendered into Latin as Slaterus.

One of the great-great-grandsons of Johannes Jacobus was Sander Louis Slaterus, who was born in Amsterdam in 1803. At the age of 24, he decided to move to Suriname, which was a Dutch colony at the time. He worked here as a director of several coffee, wood and sugar plantations. It is very painful for me to accept that the hard labour at these plantations was done by enslaved people of African descent.
On 14 April 1841, Sander Louis bought four slaves, named Martha, Lodewijk, Flora and Christiaan to work at plantation Mariënburg. On 30 July of the same year, he exchanged them for Diana and her three children Christina, Louis and Laurens, who were all slaves on the same plantation. The reason Sander Louis did this was because he was the father of these children and he wanted to free them. On 5 February 1846, Diana and her (then) five children were finally manumitted. As a sign of freedom, they received a surname. Later, Sander Louis and Diana got four more children.

One hundred years later, Henry Slaterus was born in Paramaribo. His father was the great-grandson of Sander Louis and Diana and his mother had her roots somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, from where many indentured workers had been recruited after the abolishment of slavery in the second half of the 19th century. At quite a young age Henry moved to the Netherlands, where he met my mother.

I have been a birdwatcher ever since I was a child, being most familiar with Eurasian species. However, there is one group of birds that has always had my special interest: blame it on my Surinamese roots, but I just love Neotropical birds. Whether it is the stunning hummingbirds, the secretive antpittas or the colourful tanagers, they all bring a smile to my face every single time. For those who want to learn more about the rich avifauna of Suriname, I recommend buying the field guide made by Arie Spaans, Otte Ottema, Jan Hein Ribot, Ber van Perlo and others. Also, the following websites are worth visiting:

  • Recent bird sightings published on eBird

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Published 27 September 2020