Five European bison – 2 females and 3 males – were released in the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park in the eastern part of the Romanian Carpathian Mountains on March 22. The last record of wild bison in Romania dates back to 1852.
“It is a historical day in the conservation history of Romania” says Sebastian Catanoiu, manager of the Nature Park. “It took us 10 years to take this first step. Very soon new releases will follow, not just in Vanatori Neamt but also in other parts of the Romanian Carpathians.”
A programme to reintroduce bison in the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park started in 2003 with animals originating from breeding centres in Switzerland, Germany and Sweden. Not far from the borders of Moldova and Ukraine, the species has a historical stronghold in this region. According to legends, the medieval state of Moldova was founded during a bison hunt close to the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park – at that time known as the “Bison Land”. Since then the bison serves as the symbol of Moldova and is also represented on the Romanian flag.
Rewidling of the first free living bison is an important milestone for the comeback of species in Romania. In addition to Vanatori Neamt, breeding centres have been established in three locations in the country, well distributed around the Carpathian Arch. Sebastian Catanoiu is advising Rewilding Europe on the reintroduction of the European bison in south-west Carpathians. A first rapid assessment in November 2011 demonstrated both suitable habitats and locations in the region of the Tarcu Mountain Natura 2000 Site, Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park and Mehedinti Plateau Geopark. Local names of villages, hills and other geographical features also indicate the historical presence of the bison. Following a more detailed assessment in summer 2012, work on bringing back the European bison to this part of the Carpathians will begin.