Last July, three female bison were reintroduced to a reserve in Kent, UK, thousands of years after their species became extinct in the region. One of them was pregnant, which park officials didn’t know.
The European bison (Bison bonasus Linnaeus) is a cousin of the American bison. Very common in prehistory, the species almost went extinct due to hunting. Now protected, these animals are gradually reintroduced to the continent through breeding programs🇧🇷 As recently as last July, three females were relocated to Kent, UK as part of the Wilder Blean Project.
This experiment, developed by the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT), aims to study how bison can act as ecosystem engineers. Indeed, UK natural systems are like in other places threatened with collapse, while the number of wild animals continues to decline. Species once associated with the British countryside have all but disappeared. With traditional conservation techniques failing and insufficient human management to create the kinds of habitats wildlife needs, some are banking on a “wilder” approach🇧🇷 In this specific case, when consuming the bark, the bison will kill certain trees, thus favoring the creation of light wells, while other plants will emerge thanks to the dispersion of seeds by excrement. Eventually, these bison could therefore promote biodiversity in the area attracting insects, reptiles, birds and other bats.
So far, only three females with tracking collars have been released. They are now four. In fact, on September 9, when rangers didn’t see any of the females for several days, they were surprised to find that this one had finally given birth🇧🇷
The fact that this pregnancy went unnoticed is not uncommon. Indeed, it is generally difficult to detect a pregnancy in bison, because they evolved to hide it to protect themselves from predators🇧🇷
The birth was not immediately announced due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8. In the meantime, they were able to confirm that the young woman was in good health🇧🇷
This week I went down to #WilderBlean with @KentWildlife and @WildwoodTrust to film its newest resident for @PostcodeLottery🇧🇷 The first wild bison born in the UK in thousands of years. #buffalo #rewilding pic.twitter.com/D03P8oSGhS
—Jon Collins (@ukjoncollins) October 21, 2022
The four females will soon be joined by a young male from germany🇧🇷 Its arrival was delayed by Brexit-related import complications. Thus, everyone will benefit from a lot of fifty hectares (against five currently). Eventually, the site could accommodate up to ten bison blooming in an area of about two hundred hectares.
It is also said that these bison will soon join other species, including the Exmoor, one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, and the Longhorn, a British cattle breed. Their behaviors will also help with landscape management.