The last time they set foot in the UK, the Mesolithic era was coming to a close as cave-dwelling Britons discovered farming and started clearing forests for their livestock. Now, 6,000 years on, wild bison have returned to our soil as part of a massive conservation project.
In an effort to safeguard the European bison, a small herd of the endangered animals has been reintroduced in Kent. Conservationists hope the bisons’ grazing will also help kill off redundant pine wood trees, create sunny new glades and improve insect, bird and plant diversity in the area.
To start with, three females have been introduced (one matriarch and two younger cows), with a male arriving in August. Each of the younger cows is expected to produce one calf per year through natural breeding.
The animals are Europe’s largest land mammals and weigh up to a tonne each. They’re expected to kill trees on a former pine wood plantation by eating their bark or rubbing against them. This dead wood should provide food for insects, which will in turn provide food for birds including nightingales and turtle doves.
Paul Hadaway, of Kent Wildlife Trust, told The Guardian: ‘Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape.’
The wildlife trust says there are no plans to reintroduce predators such as wolves. But if these enormous bison really do thrive again, who knows?
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