Numbers of European bison held in the nature reserve of European Serengeti exceed thirty for the first time; only a few groups in the world can compete

2021 - 06 - 30

The population of European bison ranging in the former military area of Milovice near Prague has exceeded thirty animals for the first time since 2015 when the stock was founded. This significant milestone was reached after four calves were born very recently, two of them this morning. The group now consists of 32 animals.

“The European bison is one of the animal species that humans have almost wiped out. This Europe’s largest land-dwelling mammal would not have been saved without the best efforts of conservation organisations, zoos and scientists. We are happy that we were able to contribute significantly to this”, said Dalibor Dostal, director of the conservation organisation European Wildlife.

Last year, the reserve even provided several additions to other breeding facilities. “The calves bred and reared here have become part of groups in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic”, added Dalibor Dostal. Had not it sent calves to add to the stock at other sites, the reserve could have exceeded the threshold of 30 already last year.

The reserve of large hoofed mammals was set up in the former military area of Milovice seven years ago. Eight bison arrived there in late 2015. Seven females – and, shortly after them, one bull – came from several Polish reserves. In 2017, a group of five females arrived from the Bialowieza Forest as a new addition. Subsequently, animals from Zuid Kennemerland National Park, the Netherlands, and Tabor Zoo joined the herd.

According to the latest edition of the European Bison Studbook from 2019, only ten groups of this ungulate number more than 30 individuals within the stock ranging not immediately in the wild, but in dedicated reserves. “Most of them are semi-wild populations dwelling in large grazing reserves such as the one in Milovice. The largest semi-wild group of over 85 bison is found in the former military area of Döberitzer Heide near Berlin, where bison range over an area of more than 1,860 hectares”, explained Miloslav Jirku from the Biological Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

While the Czech Republic has been significantly adding to efforts to save bison, it owes a great debt to the species. “It is very pleasing that three of the ten largest semi-wild bison groups are found in the Czech Republic. At the same time, it is sad to see that this country remains one of the last states within the species’ historical range where the bison has not yet been returned into the wild although the public would welcome the activity”, added Miloslav Jirku.

According to him, the Czech Republic has more territories appropriate for the species than, for example, Lithuania and Latvia, where bison have been ranging in the wild for a long time. “Free-ranging bison populations, of which 16 number over 100 animals, are found in ten European countries – including seven EU members”, added Miloslav Jirku.

All bison individuals included in large Czech groups are registered in the European Bison Studbook kept by Bialowieza National Park, Poland. “Owing to the studbook, we know facts such as how many bison there are at the various sites in the world or what the male to female ratio is per location”, said Miloslav Jirku.

The large herbivore reserve was created in 2015, when it became the first location where wild horses, bison and back-bred aurochs all occur. In the last year and half, it has won three prestigious awards, most recently for SDGs (sustainable development goals) in the field of Climate Change.

Photo: Vojtech Lukas

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