Fota Wildlife Park, working in partnership with the Aspinall foundation and three animal parks in the UK, has successfully translocated six European bison to the wild in Romania as part of a conservation effort to save Europe’s largest land mammal from extinction.
On 23rd April 2014 six female captive-bred bison, from Fota Wildlife Park (Cork), Highland Wildlife Park (Inverness-shire) and Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks (Kent) were transported to the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park in Romania. There the bison will be monitored using radio-collars and will join an existing herd of European bison, who were introduced into the park from captive populations in Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.
The project aims to re-establish a viable and self-sustaining population of European bison, and will also be a vital step towards increasing biodiversity in the region. Sean McKeown, Park Director for Fota Wildlife Park said “we are delighted to be once again involved with a reintroduction programme for European Bison. It’s great to see two young bison we have reared form part of this important reintroduction programme for this species that was once extinct in the wild in Romania. In April 2008 Fota Wildlife Park sent its first European bison back to the wild to Białowieża National Park in Poland where their descendants are roaming through the Białowieża Forest.”
European bison were driven to extinction in the wild in the early twentieth century as the result of habitat destruction and severe hunting. Through the captive breeding of the species in European zoos and a series of reintroduction projects, the population has gradually begun to increase and the IUCN subsequently reclassified European bison as Endangered, rather than Critically Endangered.
The Vanatori Neamt Nature Park is located in the Carpathians, a vast mountain range spanning across six countries including Romania, Hungary and Czech Republic. The Carpathians is the last relatively unspoiled area of this size in Central and Eastern Europe and provides an important refuge for many rare and endangered species
The translocation of the bison has been made possible by a partnership between The Aspinall Foundation, The European Bison breeding programme (EEP) and European Wilderness Society. The project is a fundamental step towards increasing the population of a species that was once on the brink of extinction.
Adrian Harland, Animal Director for Port Lympne Wild Animal Park explains: “Following our involvement in The Aspinall Foundation’s ground breaking reintroduction projects in Africa, it is great to be able to continue our conservation efforts here in Europe by reintroducing a species that was once tragically made extinct in the wild.”
Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections for Highland Wildlife Park said: “This project is an example of how zoos within the European Zoo Association’s coordinated breeding programmes are helping save species from extinction and I am delighted Highland Wildlife Park’s female bison Glen Rosa will be playing her part in the continuing reintroduction of a species that had become extinct in the wild less than a century ago.”
Here is a video that we made when they left Fota Wildlife Park on their journey to Romania