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Bison herd in the Southern Carpathians welcomes three new members

August 18, 2017

This year’s birth of three bison calves bodes well for the successful reintroduction of this majestic herbivore.

Rewilding Europe and its partners are delighted to announce that the bison herd in the Southern Carpathians has this year increased by three. The discovery of the bison calves, following four consecutive years of bison reintroductions, was greeted with great joy and satisfaction by the local team. After the long-term absence of bison from the area, it proves that our efforts to restore a viable population of this impressive and highly beneficial grazer now have a real chance of success.

Having been hunted to extinction in Romania around 200 years ago, the European bison made a wild return to the country in 2012 (in the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park). Since 2013, Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania have been working together in the Southern Carpathians rewilding area to restablish a free-roaming population of this iconic animal. The first two bison releases took place in 2014 and 2015, close to the village of Armenis. In June 2016, a third bison release took place as part of the European Commission-funded LIFE Bison Project, with a fourth release of nine animals taking place in April this year.

The three bison calves were discovered by the WWF project field team while on patrol in the Bison Hillock area. One had been born in semi-wilderness, the other two in the wild. Over the past few years the reintroduced bison herd has faced numerous challenges: long winters with heavy snow, bluetongue disease, attacks from other wild species, abnormal reproductive behaviour following years spent in captivity, and fights for dominance between individual bison. This year’s births indicate that these challenges may have finally been overcome.

The sex of the calf born in semi-wild conditions has not yet been determined, as close contact with bison during the rewilding period is kept to an absolute minimum. It had been conceived in the Avesta Bison Park, our bison breeding partner in Sweden, from where the whole group of bison transported to Armenis this year originated. Having been born in the Bison Hillock rewilding enclosure, it is healthy and now awaiting release into the wild with the rest of the group. Soon to be a fully wild animal, it won’t be given a name.

The other two bison calves were conceived and born in the wild, in the Bison Hillock area. As with the other calf, their sex hasn’t been determined, but they are also in healthy condition. As fully wild animals, they won’t be given names either.

According to Florin Hălăștăuan, a LIFE-Bison Project officer, his encounter with the newly born bison was brief but highly rewarding.

“The rangers told me that bison calves might be in a specific area, as they had seen tracks,” he says. “Female bison typically separate from the herd to give birth and remain at the birth location for days. I went directly to that area hoping to see them.

“After hiding in some thickets for 45 minutes I eventually saw two bison calves with their mothers in the small glade in front of me,” he continues. “It was a magical moment, and I even managed to take a few photos.”

Adrian Hăgătiș, the LIFE-Bison Project Manager, is also delighted with the birth of the three calves.

“Reintroducing wild animals is one of the most complex things that you can attempt in nature conservation,” he says. “This complexity resides in the selection of the animals to be reintroduced, and also in their adaptability to natural conditions without intensive supplementary feeding.

“The adaptation of these bison to a new habitat has meant overcoming a series of stress factors,” he continues. “The fact that this year’s births happened in the wild in the beginning of summer, as is normal, shows that the bison have succesfully adapted to the wild. As a result, these calves have a higher chance of survival.”

In addition to the three new calves at the Bison Hillock, this year has also witnessed bison offspring at the Hunedoara Zoo, with one calf born. As they work to restore Romania’s wild bison population, Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania have established a long-term collaboration with the zoo to develop it as a bison breeding centre. The two adult bison transported here in 2016 through the LIFE-Bison project – Joachim (a male from the Bielefeld reserve, Germany) and Spekingur (a female from the Springe reserve, Germany) – have produced a healthy female calf. This hasn’t been named yet, but its name will eventually begin with “Ro”, as is the case with all bison born and living in captivity in Romania.

The ongoing reintroduction of bison in the Tarcu Mountains (part of the Southern Carpathian range) is being conducted under a project titled “Urgent actions for the recovery of bison populations in Romania”. The reintroductions are being carried out by Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania, with financial support from the EU through its LIFE Programme.

More information about the bison reintroduction project.

Book a tour of the Bison Hillock.

Bison tracking holidays are available through the European Safari Company.

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