Eight bison calves have already been born in the large herbivore reserve this year. The most in its history

2023 - 09 - 30

Eight calves of the rare European bison have been born already in the large herbivore reserve in the former military training area of Milovice near Prague this year. It is the highest number in the 10-year history of this unique reserve.

“There is an optimum environment for bison in the reserve. This is also shown by the fact that we succeed in reproducing these rare ungulates regularly. Eight bison calves have been born this year, which is the most in the existence of the reserve,” said Dalibor Dostal, Director of the conservation organisation European Wildlife, which founded the reserve in cooperation with scientists in 2015.

Bison were on the brink of extinction a century ago. Thanks to international efforts, the species was saved from extinction by being kept in captivity. “Even though we manage to increase the bison numbers, every addition continues to be very valuable. In addition, the Milovice reserve is involved in the international exchange of animals, meaning that the genes of the young born in the reserve help save the species not only in other sites in the Czech Republic but also in the Netherlands and in France,” added Miloslav Jirku from the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The Milovice reserve is now home to 43 bison, and several grown calves from previous years will be leaving in the weeks to come for a newly established reserve by the Lipno Reservoir, where there has been a herd of wild horses since the spring.

The European bison is the biggest land mammal of Europe. Following the First World War, it had been entirely exterminated in the wild and it had only survived thanks to being kept in human care, mainly in zoos as well as game reserves. After the Second World War, bison started returning to the wild of eastern Europe. At present, bison successfully return to the wild even in densely populated areas of central and western Europe as a result of the establishment of grazing reserves, which allow so-called semi-wild breeding of these animals.

The most significant grazing reserve in the Czech Republic is located in the former military training area of Milovice. By grazing there, large ungulates help restore the rare ecosystem consisting of a mosaic of meadow areas and stands of woody plants. Thanks to bison as well as wild horses and aurochs, biodiversity and rare plant and animal species return to the local countryside. For example, numbers of the critically endangered Alcon blue have risen many times, namely by 1,700 per cent, and numbers of young individuals of the severely endangered star gentian have increased by more than 5,500 per cent there.

Photo: Zdenek Cimburek

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