17 European bison from Sweden arrived to Russia
Seventeen bison from four breeding centers in Sweden (Boros, Kungsbun, Avesta, Eriksberg) were quarantined on the territory of Eriksberg, a largest natural park in Northern Europe, and arrived in Russia. Animals are imported to increase the genetic diversity of the bison population in Russia. Last time European bison were brought to Russia 15 years ago, in 2002.
On the territory of Russia, animals will be quarantined in the Oksky nature reserve breeding center, after which most of them will stay there for breeding. The rest will be transferred to Turmonsky sanctuary with a group of animals from Oksky nature reserve to form a new free-living group, the second one in North Ossetia.
"It was a difficult journey, the bison traveled from faraway Sweden, through Finland, to the Ryazan region", said Natalya Dronova, coordinator of WWF Russia’s projects on rare species conservation. “They crossed the Baltic Sea on a ferry, and then traveled almost 2,000 kilometers. We hope that newcomers will quickly adapt to the new home, will feel great and will start to breed. Their offsprings will be released into nature in the European part of Russia and in the Caucasus".
Arriving northerners will be divided by family groups and placed in spacious "apartments" – enclosures with conditions very close to nature settings, but at the same time allowing animals to be observed and necessary veterinary procedures to be carried out. Bison feed on herbs, leaves, shoots and bark of trees and shrubs, as well as fruits of wild apples and pears. Additionally, in the breeding center, animals are fed with hay, mixed fodder and juicy fodder (carrots, cabbage).
The Oksky bison breeding center was established in 1959 to preserve, breed, and study bison. During the existence of the breeding center more than 400 bison calves have been born, of which more than 250 were released into nature, resettled to other nurseries, and zoos. The reserve was last replenished with animals from European nurseries in 1999-2001.
A group of bison living on the territories of Tseysky sanctuary and North Ossetian nature reserve was replenished with new animals by efforts of WWF and partners twice, in 2010 and 2012. The replenishment of this group (a total of 18 bison have been released) has positively affected the success of animal breeding; at present it shows good growth rates, such that 6-8 calves are born each year.
The European bison is the
only specie in the world that managed to return to the wild after complete
extermination, which became possible only through the breeding of animals in
zoos, parks and specially created nurseries.
The program for the restoration of bison population has been implemented in Russia since the 1940s of the last century. Disappearance of this species in nature was due to anthropogenic causes: destruction of habitats (cutting and burning of forests, conversion of forest areas to agricultural lands) and unlimited hunting. The last wild populations of the species have been destroyed in the early twentieth century. It took about 70 years of breeding, first in zoos and nurseries, and then in nature, in order to increase the number of the world herd from 52 (1927) to 3,418 individuals (1993). According to monitoring data as of the 1st of January 2016, natural groups in Russia contain about 760 bison.
WWF-Russia is grateful to its’ supporters and partners who made this project possible: WWF Sweden, WWF Germany, WWF Netherlands, EBCC (European Bison Conservation Center), Eriksberg Vilt&Natur AB and INGSTAD & CO AB transport company, Frekom company and 4fresh.ru.
Since 1996, WWF-Russia, with the financial
support of companies and individuals, is implementing a program to create a
free-living bison population in the forests of the European part of Russia. In
the period from 1999 to 2002, 60 animals have been brought in, some of them
remained in nurseries to increase genetic diversity, a significant part has
been released in the Orel-Bryansk-Kaluga region and in the Vladimir region to
create a free-living population of this species in the European part of Russia.
As a result, 7 groups of bison were created in Orel, Bryansk, Kaluga and
Vladimir regions. Today, more than 600 free-living bison inhabit wild nature of
European Russia. In 2008, the foundation began practical actions to conserve
and restore bison in the Caucasus.
In recent years, experts have noted an increase
in the number of bull calves among baby bison that are born in Russian
nurseries. This indicates low level of gene diversity of parents. This can lead
to a threat due to instability of bison to infections and birth of non-viable
offsprings. In addition, a significant increase in the number of livestock is
possible only due to an increase in the number of females in natural groupings.
To increase the genetic diversity of the
existing bison in Russian nurseries, it is necessary to periodically refresh
the breeding stock: import new breeders from breeding centers of Europe.
In 2014, the Ministry of Natural Resources of
the Russian Federation appealed to WWF Russia with a request to organize an
import of new animals from Europe. In 2016, an agreement has been reached
between WWF Russia and Eriksberg Park to transfer 17 bison to Russia.
Eriksberg is the largest natural park in
Northern Europe, located in the south-east of Sweden. There are preserved
forests, marine and lake landscapes on 900 hectares. Red deer, fallow deer,
wild boar, moufflon and the largest breeding herd of bison live in the park.