Bull release completes UK’s first wild bison herd in millennium | Wildlife | Daily News Byte

Bull release completes UK’s first wild bison herd in millennium |  Wildlife

 | Daily News Byte

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The UK’s first wild bison herd for thousands of years has been completed in time for the release of the herd’s bulls for Christmas.

Three females were released into the wild in Kent in July as part of the Wilder Bleen project. But post-Brexit paperwork complications delayed the bull’s arrival from Germany by five months. There is also a calf in the herd, which is surprisingly born in September.

The bull arrived on Friday but it was three hours before he chose to leave the transporter, perhaps prevented by the downpour and some lethargy after sedation during the journey. Finally, the sight of the females appeared to have lured the bull out. Bison are gentle giants and a completed herd will sniff, guzzle and eat together for a while before retreating into the forest.

The project is a collaboration between the Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust and aims to use free-living bison as “ecosystem engineers” to naturally regenerate former pine wood plantations. Bison’s taste for bark kills some trees and opens up most of their trails, allowing light to spread across the forest floor, while their love of roaming in dust baths creates more open ground for new plants, invertebrates and birds.

Mark Haban of the Wildwood Trust said: “The arrival of the bull marks the start of the Wilder Bleen tour in earnest and it is incredibly fitting that it coincides with the New Year. I’m a bit emotional to be honest, it’s been such a long time in the making.”

Stan Smith of Kent Wildlife Trust said: “We want to demonstrate that a nature-based solution exists to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis we face and the Wilder Bleen project will become a blueprint for other organisations. Take it forward.”

The Kent Project expects the herd to reproduce and is licensed for up to 10 bison. In the future, he hopes to provide bison to other herds found in the UK, as well as exchange animals across Europe. All 9,000 bison living in Europe are descended from just 12 zoo animals, which saved the species from extinction in the early 20th century, so maximizing genetic diversity is important.

Female bison from Ireland and Scotland were originally released in five-hectare (12-acre) enclosures, so that their health could be closely monitored while they adapted to their new home. In November, they were granted access to a 50-hectare area.

Donovan Wright, a bison ranger, watched as the herd took their first steps into the 50-hectare area and said: “It was an incredible moment, the matriarch leading the young females into their new home, making a beeline for sweets. Chestnut trees and enter immediately.”

The herd will be released on the entire 200-hectare site in the summer of 2023, with a fundraising campaign underway to build a tunnel under the public footpath that crosses the area. Bison would live completely wild lives, but they came from parks where they were fed supplemental food, which they are now being released from.

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