Archive for October 2nd, 2011

Europe’s ‘gentle’ giant

The news isn’t always bad, sometimes there is good news. If we look at mankind, and more so recently, we seem determined to wipe out entire species of animals for our own gains.

This is a story of an animal literally brought back from the brink of extinction.

Nearly everyone knows of the American bison (Bison bison), great shaggy beasts revered, hunted and utilised by the native Americans, then slaughtered heavy-handedly by the whites. But the majority of people don’t know that there that we have another true bison species.

European Bison (Bison bonasus)

European Bison or Wisent

In 1919, a Polish poacher shot Europe’s last wild bison. And that should have been the end of that.

It was not, thankfully. Ten years later, a bison restitution centre opened in Poland, using some of the few dozen animals still surviving in zoos.

A breeding programme followed, protected by everyone from the Nazis to the Soviets; poaching the animals was at one time punishable by death.

In 1951, the first bison were reintroduced to the wild, at the Bialowieza Forest, which straddles Poland and Belarus.

Today, that population has grown to 800.

The animals have been reintroduced all over central Europe, and bison bonasus has been taken off the endangered species list.

But back to our bison, who were themselves brought here from Poland, distant descendants of the original breeding pair.

Source: BBC News Read a great story.

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