Once widespread throughout Europe, the European bison were nearly driven to extinction in the early 20th century by over-hunting and habitat loss.
Also, the species tends to be confined to small, fragmented and restricted areas where the concentration of individuals is high compared to available food resources. Other consequences of its isolation are low genetic diversity and high susceptibility to disease.
However, thanks to reintroduction work by Rewilding Europe, WWF Romania and the LIFE RE-Bison project, today, more than 100 are roaming free in the Țarcu Mountains. These include nearly 40 calves born in the wild. This is the largest bison population in Romania.
The reintroduction involved many experts and rangers, 32 breeding centres and reserves in Europe, 28 GPS collars and 14 transports.
WWF rangers have been monitoring the 100 bison, and signs of their presence have been recorded around 750 times. Also, 28 individuals have been fitted with collars during the project, allowing them to be tracked by GPS.
The team estimate that the bison distribution covers an area of 89 km2, the size of around 16 000 football fields. Also, they are attracted to deciduous forests and natural grasslands, water availability and slope of the land.
‘Careful selection of the bison taking into account age, gender and genetic background, group formation before translocation and the correct choice of transporter have contributed to the animals’ adaptability and increased their chances of survival. The calves born in the wild between 2016 and 2021 show us that the habitat is favourable, and the species can successfully recover’, says Mariana Drugă, LIFE RE-Bison project manager.
The bison are good for biodiversity in the region. This is because they act as landscape architects, eating around 32 kg of food per day and spreading the seeds of over 200 plants. This maintains the numbers and species of flowers that pollinators like bees feed on.
Relations between locals and the bison have improved dramatically. This is down to new electric fences being installed to protect the communities. Today, 89% of locals consider bison to be beautiful animals and essential for the environment.
Europe’s bison are protected under the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.
Image: LIFE14 NAT/NL/000987/Rewilding Europe
- 20 Oktober 2021