Eight new bison, the largest land mammal in Europe, have reached Bison Hillock, in Armeniș, Romania where they will soon join the other 57 free-roaming individuals in the Southern Carpathians. Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania have now successfully raised the number of bison in the wild to the biggest population seen in the country in the past 200 years, according to a press release issued by the WWF Romania.
The 6 females and 2 males began their long journey to the wild from 6 reservations in Germany and Switzerland (Wisentgehege Springe, Wisentgehege Donaumoos, Wildpark Bruderhaus, Nationalpark Kellerwald-Edersee, Nationalparkverwaltung Bayerischer Wald, Wisentgehege Hardehausen). The Springe reservation hosted the females for several months in order to form a compact herd, a method that ensures the group has a smoother transition to a new environment.
“Preparations for the transport require a lot of attention. From the selection process, important for genetic diversity, up to mounting the collars, we are focused on the well-being of the bison. It is a stressful journey, but we hope the reward of freedom is worth it,” said Florin Hălăștăuan, ranger coordinator.
After a period of acclimatisation in which the new arrivals are carefully monitored by rangers and the veterinarian, they are released into a larger area which gives them the chance to explore forests and meadows. The gates to actual freedom will open a few months later, and the bison are then able to mingle with the residents who have already adapted to the wild area of the Țarcu Mountain and avoid further human interaction.
Rangers monitor the herds, one of which is comprised of 24 individuals and has at least two new born calves, by GPS signals coming from collared animals, hidden cameras and thousands of hours spent tracking in the field. The collected data is essential for analysing their behaviour and environmental impact.
“Every transport and every birth in the wild are a success for the conservation of these vulnerable animals and not only because bison are a key species that sculpts the ecosystem and influences biodiversity. Animals, plants, our health and sustainable community development, ecotourism, all depend on them returning in the wild,” – Marina Drugă, LIFE-Bison Project Manager, WWF-Romania.
The bison rewilding initiative by Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania could not be possible without collaboration of the Romanian authorities, breeders, local communities from Armeniș and Teregova and the LIFE programme of the European Union. The Life Bison team was supported in making this transport possible by Ioan-Cristian Vela, the mayor of Armeniș commune, representatives of ROMSILVA, (Romanian State Forestry Authority), DSVSA Reșița (National Authority for Veterenary Sanitation and Food Safety Reșița), ANANP (National Agency for Protected Areas in the territory of Caraș-Severin ) and the Teregova Silvestry Unit.