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Премия рунета 2017

30 bisons were released into the wild In Yakutiya

24 november 2017
The released American bison were bred in a bison breeding centre «Timpinay», located in the nature park «Sinyaya» in Gorny District, Yakutiya.

The head of Yakutia Yegor Borisov and the WWF director Igor Chestin took part in releasing the animals.

“We have been working hard for a quite long time to restore the population of this ancient animal in the republic, which is considered their historic homeland. Scientific estimates indicate that they had lived here over 20 thousand years ago until they started becoming extinct. Only their “descendants” in North America have lived to the present day”, – says Yegor Borisov, the head of Yakutia.

Yakutia is the only territory in Eurasia that has ecological conditions suitable for creation of wild population of these ancient bulls.

“During the Year of Ecology it was decided to make an experimental release of a group of bison into the wild, – says minister of nature conservation of the Sakha republic (Yakutia) Sakhamin Afanasyev. – Stable snow cover will provide an easier way of tracking the movement of the herd, while the breeding centre employees will continue to feed up the bisons. This should help us to keep the animals in a certain area under specialists’ supervision during the initial period”.

The Yakut project aimed at reestablishing the historic area of distribution of previously completely extinct wood bison is implemented in cooperation with Elk Island National Park in Canada, from where 30 wood bisons were brought to Yakutia in 2006. Yakut ecologists successfully carried out the adaptation of the animals, the government of Yakutia created conditions necessary for the breeding the animals on two breeding centres – «Ust-Buotama» (Khangalassky District) and «Timpinay» (Gorny District). Today the total bison population in the republic counts more than 170 animals, from which 88 were born in Yakutia. The bison breeding centre «Timpinay» was established in 2009 as a part of implementation of the programme «Reacclimatisation of the Wood Bison in the Taiga Zone of Yakutia».

Igor Chestin, the WWF Russia director, was the honoured guest of the event. The head of the region Yegor Borisov presented him a anniversary insignia «385 of Yakutia with Russia».

«The restoration of wild population of bison will contribute to the development of ecotourism in Yakutia, as it will be the only place in Eurasia where it will be possible to see these animals in the wild, – says Igor Chestin. – This will allow attracting yet even more attention to the protection of the fragile Arctic nature of this region, where WWF is carrying out a whole range of projects».

According to Chestin, thousands of years ago there was a mammoth steppe in the said area, and it was there that animals of the Pleistocene – mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, reindeers, muskoxen, bison, saiga antelopes as well as different predators – could be found. Then the climate changed, forests appeared, and animals migrated – the saiga antelope moved south, the mammoth became extinct, the bison moved north, but became extinct later as well. Thanks to the work of the scientists we now have an opportunity to restore the bison population.

Currently Yakutia is a region with the biggest territory of specially protected natural areas in Russia. Their total area in Yakutia has reached 1144000 km2, or 37 % of the republic’s territory.  On this indicator the region now holds the first place among the federal subjects of Russia.

The origin of American and European bison:

The first bison appeared in the Pliocene (presumably in Southern Europe), and in the Pleistocene they already inhabited the whole Europe and North America. They moved to the latter destination over the Bering Land Bridge about 600 thousand years ago, where they formed a small thermophilic herbivore known as Bison antiquus (ancient bison). During the Late Pleistocene (about 90 thousand years ago, at the beginning of a new glacial period) steppe bison (Bison priscus) moved to North America again, inhabiting the cold mammoth steppes of Beringia (the aboriginal Bison antiquus lived south of that area). During that period, among the big animals of the mammoth steppes the bison was one of the most widespread.

The flooding of Beringia 14 years ago and the collapse of the mammoth steppe ecosystem in the end of the Pleistocene led to the breaking of the areal of the steppe bison, that during the Ice Age inhabited the area from the Atlantic to the edge of the American ice sheet.

In Europe, the bison of the Pliocene era formed a separate European bison population (Bison bonasus) – bison adapted to the life in the European temperate deciduous forest. Two separate populations formed (and still exist to this day) in North America as a result of mixture of Bison antiquus and Bison priscus.

It is important to note that the differences between American and European bison from theit common ancestors – the Pleistocene steppe bison (Bison priscus) – are not very significant due to the fact that the American and the European bison mated freely, giving fertile progeny (that fact clearly indicates that the differences from the original species as a result of evolution are insignificant). However out of three modern bison the most similar one to the ancient steppe bison is the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae).

During a long time after the extinction of the mammoth steppes another population of bisons that only became extinct during the Late Holocene existed in Siberia. For instance, the Taymyr Peninsulathe bisons disappeared after did not become extinct before the 7th millennium BC, in Yakutia some of the discoveries on bison bones date to 6th-5th millennia BC. Cave painting around the beginning of the Current Era in the south of Yakutia presumably depict bison, and around the lake Baikal archeologists discovered bison bones at the man sites that date to IX–X centuries AC.

The extinct Siberian bison were most similar to the modern wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). Both these forms originated from the Western Siberian – Beringian population of the Pleistocene bison and after the breaking of the areal due to the flooding of the Berigia evolved in a similar conditions of the taiga and  the forest tundra.

Translation by Lilit Arutyunyan

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