Farm breeding of the American bison pose a risk for wild Wisents

2013 - 11 - 28

Thirty American bisons escaped in the past days from a farm breeding in the west part of the Czech Republic. Although the herd managed to be caught, the case showed the risks connected with the breeding of these large herbivores in Europe.

Just in three countries bordering on the Czech Republic, in Poland, in Slovakia and in Germany there are, in fact, wild populations of the European bison – Wisent.  A reintroduction of these endangered animals is being prepared also in the Czech Republic.

With a growing number of wild living wisents, however, also the risk related to a farm breeding of the American bison increases. An escape of the whole herd or of individual animals, which the breeders even do not announce in the fear of sanction from the offices, means a danger for genetic purity of wild living wisent population. In case there came to the hybridisation of the American bison with the wisent, the genetic purity of the wisent could be lost forever. Wisent males actually are able to walk hundreds of kilometres in the time of rut. Hybrid animals could thus get faraway of the place where there came to the crossing of both the species and spread hybrid genes into other populations.

„Probably on any other continent the offices approach so carelessly to the introduction of non-original species breeding as they do just in Europe. If we want to preserve a unique biodiversity in Europe also for other generations, the European offices should change this approach,“ stated Dalibor Dostal, the director of the conservation organisation European Wildlife.

Similarly there occurred a spreading of the non-original Sika deer from Asia tens years ago. Animals which escaped form enclosures crossed with the original European Red deer. The result is that the original Red deer has died out in many vast European areas and it was replaced by a population of crossbreed of the Sika deer.

In the Caucasus there already lives a population of of wisent-American bison hybrids in wild nature. The population came into being in the former Soviet Union under the inter-war experiment which was to increase the chance of the wisent to survive by crossing both the species. In the end the purebred wisent population was viable enough and the crossbred animals of the bison were not put into the breedings. They were finally released in the Caucasus. Considering the fact the hybrid animals occur close to the areas where there live purebred wisents, they pose a risk for genetic purity of the original European species here, too.

European Wildlife

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