Bison Return to the United Kingdom to Help Fight Climate Change
European bison nearly went extinct by the 1900s, with just a dozen remaining at one point in eastern Europe. In the decades to come, their numbers were expanded via breeding programs. Now, a group of the animals has made its way to the United Kingdom in an attempt to boost biodiversity and help address climate change.
In the cool morning hours of what was predicted to be the hottest day ever recorded in the U.K., three bison were released into the West Blean and Thornden Woods in Kent. The hope is that through their grazing, bark consumption, and tree felling, the bison will help create a more climate resistant landscape and lead to more species expanding into the woodland.
Evan Bowen-Jones, Chief Executive Officer at Kent Wildlife Trust, says, “The restoration of naturally functioning ecosystems is a vital and inexpensive tool in tackling the climate crisis. The bison will help to create climate resistant landscapes which can adapt to the challenges presented by the crisis we face.
“We want Wilder Blean to mark the beginning of a new era for conservation in the UK. We need to revolutionize the way we restore natural landscapes, relying less on human intervention and more on natural engineers like bison, boar and beaver.”
Once the bison are established, officials hope to add other grazers, including Exmoor ponies, Iron Age pigs, and Longhorn cattle. Their impacts to the area will be monitored by Kent Wildlife Trust. Officials hope to see which natural habitat management policies are most effective at restoring nature.
This is also an important step in addressing the lack of biodiversity in the U.K., which is experiencing species loss at the fastest rate in thousands of years. Kent Wildlife Trust notes that lack of woodland management is playing a role.
Paul Whitfield, Director General of Wildwood Trust, says, “With this project, we’re going to prove the impact bison in the wild can have on the environment. They will create an explosion of biodiversity and build habitat resilience; locking in carbon to help reduce global temperature rise. This will act as a huge catalyst for change, with the project being replicated on scale across the country. It will make a phenomenal difference. It’s great news in these worrying times.
“Not only this but we’re giving people in the UK – for the first time in over a thousand years – the chance to experience bison in the wild. It’s a really powerful emotional, visceral experience and it’s something we’ve lost in this country. It’s an absolute privilege to be part of the team that’s bringing that back.”
The extinct forest bison Bison schoetensacki was found in the United Kingdom during the Pleistocene. While the European bison is not native to the area, it is related to this extinct species.
You can see the video of the new arrivals below.
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →