Wild bison are to return to the UK for the first time in 6,000 years, with the release of a small herd in Kent planned for spring 2022.
The £1m project to reintroduce the animals will help to secure the future of an endangered species. But they will also naturally regenerate a former pine wood plantation by killing off trees. This creates a healthy mix of woodland, insect, bird and plant life. This is fantastic for the local environment.
During the initial release, one male and three females will be set free. Natural breeding will increase the size of the herd, with one calf per year normal for each female. The bison will come from the Netherlands or Poland, where releases have been successful and safe.
Populations of the UK’s most important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970. Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, despite the best efforts of conservationists.
Bison kill selected trees by eating their bark or rubbing against them to remove their thick winter fur. This creates a feast of dead wood for insects, which provide food for birds. It also creates sunny clearings where native plants can thrive. The trust expects nightingales and turtle doves to benefit from the bison’s “ecosystem engineering”.
The Steppe bison is thought to have roamed the UK until about 6,000 years ago, when hunting and changes in habitat led to its global extinction. The European bison that will be released in Kent is a descendant of this species and its closest living relative.
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Adapted from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/10/wild-bison-to-return-to-uk-kent