Wild bison to roam free in UK for first time in 6,000 years
Herd from Europe to be released in Kent in bid to ‘restore an ancient habitat’
Wild bison will soon be found roaming in UK woodland for the first time in 6,000 years thanks to a £1m project to restore local wildlife.
Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust are overseeing the plan to import and release European bison - the continent’s largest land mammal - at Blean Woods, a former pine wood plantation near Canterbury.
The European bison, which will be reintroduced to the area by spring 2022, “is the closest living relative to ancient steppe bison, which once roamed Britain”, says the BBC.
One male and three females will be released into a “fenced enclosure away from public footpaths”, reports London Evening Standard, which adds that conservatists are relying on “natural breeding” to increase the size of the herd.
The four bison will come from either the Netherlands or Poland, “where similar releases have been successful and safe”, according to the newspaper.
Environmentalists say that bison are a “keystone species” that can naturally manage woodlands and act as “ecosystem engineers”, Insider reports. The animals “fell trees by eating their bark or rubbing up against them”, creating “wide and sunny clearings, which in turn will help native plants to thrive”, the news site explains.
Paul Hadaway of Kent Wildlife Trust said that “a wilder, nature-based solution is the right one to tackle the climate and nature crisis we now face”.
“Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape,” he added.