A new record. The herd of European bison in the large herbivore reserve has exceeded 40 animals for the first time

2023 - 06 - 30

For the first time since the foundation of the reserve for large herbivores, European Serengeti, which is located in the former military training area of Milovice near Prague, the local herd of European bison has exceeded 40 animals. This year’s sixth calf was born in the reserve in June, making the number of animals reach 41.

The current number of bison has ranked the Milovice population among the two largest populations in the Czech Republic along with the herd in the former military training area of Ralsko, which also reached 40 animals last year. “We regularly export additions from our reserve to other sites all around Europe. For example, our additions are in France or in the Netherlands. Had it not been for the provision of the young animals to both domestic and international breeding programmes, the reserve would have reached the current number of animals several years ago,” said Dalibor Dostal, director of the conservation organisation European Wildlife, which founded the reserve in cooperation with scientists in 2015.

According to experts, the Milovice herd is exceptional compared to other Czech breeding groups outside zoos. “The exchange and provision of animals abroad has made the Milovice herd part of the global population. This makes it different from other domestic breeding groups outside zoological gardens, which remain genetically isolated. It is an essential contribution towards saving the European bison as a biological species,” said Miloslav Jirku from the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The European bison is the biggest land mammal of Europe. It had been exterminated in the wild after the First World War, with several remaining animals surviving at zoos and game enclosures. Thanks to the launch of an international rescue programme, the species was preserved and returned back to the wild after the Second World War.

The grazing of European bison and other large ungulates helps restore the biological diversity of the former military training area. In this way, biodiversity has been rising in the reserve at an unprecedented pace. For example, the numbers of young star gentians, the rarest plant species in the reserve, have risen by 5,553 per cent and the numbers of the mountain Alcon blue have climbed up by 1,700 per cent thanks to the ungulates.

European Serengeti became the first place in the world where all three key species of large ungulates of Europe, i.e. bison, wild horse and back-bred aurochs, are found in one reserve for the first time. The project has been rewarded with several prestigious prizes, including SDGs Award in the Climatic Change category. The grazing of wild ungulates, unlike intensive breeding groups of farm animals, contributes to the countryside adapting to climate changes and to carbon storage in soil. According to scientific studies, natural grazing ecosystems all over the world retain up to 50% more carbon than all the forests on the planet.

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