A Unique European Bison Transport Just Arrived in the Southern Carpathians, Romania

The first bison relocation of its kind in Europe, with only male European bison, took place yesterday in the rewilding area of Romania known as Bison Hillock. The seven individuals arrived from Germany as part of the LIFE RE-Bison project and will contribute to the genetic diversity of the rewilded free-range bison population.

01 July 2021 – The Bison Hillock herd is the largest population of free bison in Romania, and thanks to this latest transport now stands at about 100 individuals. The European bison is one of the most vulnerable large mammals in the world, and it is protected at the European level. The Life-Bison rewilding project, begun in 2014 by Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania aims to create a viable population that breeds in the wild and supports the area’s biodiversity, but also brings back a cultural value, a symbol that has allowed people in the local communities to rediscover the beauty of their surroundings, and develop entrepreneurial activities based on experiences in nature. Romania is among the few countries with European bison roaming in the wild. European bison is one of the most vulnerable large mammals in the world, and it is protected at the European level.

The transport was prepared at length by WWF-Romania, Rewilding Europe and the German Donaumoos, Bad Berleburg, Neumünster and Bielefeld Reserves where the bison came from. The decision to relocate the males was taken after a complex selection process and consultations with the IUCN SSC Bison Specialist Group on the ethology and conservation of the species. The bison spent six months together in the Donaumoos Wisentgehege Reserve to get to know each other and to facilitate the adaptation process once they arrived in the unknown environment of the Natura 2000 Țarcu Mountains Site.

‘After 6 years we can say that we have had many firsts in this project, from having more than 25 calves born in the wild, to GPS data that shows a bison reaching an altitude of more than 2000 meters in the Țarcu Mountains, and now we managed to successfully deliver a unique transport, consisting only of males. This is a pioneering project, and this helps the whole scientific community in Europe to better understand the species and to have good results in its conservation’ -Marina Drugă, LIFE RE-Bison Project Manager, WWF Romania.

After the quarantine period, the newly-arrived males will be released into the wild where, thanks to the last two relocations this year, there is now a population of 100 bison, the largest in Romania. These males are still young, but at maturity they can weigh more than 800 kg, while females can reach over 600 kg. Male bison are solitary and spend most of their time away from the female group with calves, but return during the breeding season and over winter.

‘When monitoring males like Bilbo, brought from Sweden in 2017, you can’t help but treat it with respect, like a wild animal should be treated. We have no way of weighing him, but this male looks like he’s at least 900 kg. The landscape suits him well, he’s all muscle as he travels dozens of kilometres through forests, hills and pastures and has plenty of food’, says Daniel Hurduzeu, a ranger at Bison Hillock.

Bison bonasus, the largest land mammal in Europe, is an umbrella species that safeguards the quality of life of other species in the food chain and preserves wilderness strongholds and natural balance on which we all depend. The bison’s browsing ability in the search of food helps maintain a mosaic of forested areas and grasslands, a landscape which is highly valuable for its biodiversity and natural resilience in the face of climate challenges. More than 596 animal species and 200 plant species benefit from these huge herbivores. Moreover, the bison is a species that, if successfully re-introduced and its habitat actively preserved across the entire Carpathian Mountains, will help maintain ecological corridors on a large scale, allowing for species migration, such as brown bear, wolf or lynx. The long-term conservation of the bison species is of high importance for the entire ecosystem. That is why every decision on achieving a genetically viable population is important.

Since January 2021, due to long-term conservation work, European bison (Bison bonasus) are no longer considered a vulnerable species in Poland and Belarus. The European bison population has increased from about 1,800 in 2003 to over 6,200 now; meaning that the species has moved up the IUCN red list classification to ‘almost threatened’. Existing populations, such as those in Romania, must continue to be enlarged in order to ensure genetic diversity, long-term stability and viability.

WWF-Romania and Rewilding Europe are working closely with the local communities, local entrepreneurs, ROMSILVA, forestry offices, hunting associations and tour operators, to ensure that the re-introduction programme will achieve all its objectives. The reintroduction of the bison in the Southern Carpathians is part of the project ‘Urgent Actions for the Recovery of European Bison Populations in Romania’, implemented by WWF-Romania and Rewilding Europe with financial support from the European Union through the LIFE Programme and together with local communities.

-ENDS-

For further information please contact:
Marina Drugă, LIFE RE-Bison Project Manager, WWF-Romania, [email protected], Tel: +40 729 097 969
Bianca Ștefănuț, Communication Officer, WWF-Romania, [email protected], Tel: +40 730 098 722

To book a visit to the Bison Hillock, please go to: http://www.europeansafaricompany.com/ and www.wewilder.com

Background
The Life RE-Bison rewilding project, begun in 2014 by Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania aims to create a viable population that breeds in the wild and supports the area’s biodiversity, but also brings back a cultural value, a symbol that has allowed people in the local communities to rediscover the beauty of their surroundings, and develop entrepreneurial activities based on experiences in nature.