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News 19 May 14

Bison Return to the Wild in Romania

Seventeen European bison have been released into a wild mountain area in Romania, centuries after they became extinct there.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

Almost 200 years after they became locally extinct, a large group of European bison was relocated on Saturday to the Tarcu Mountain in the Carpathians in Western Romania, in one of the largest reintroductions of the endangered mammal in Europe.

"This is an important day for us as we finally succeded in gaining a new species in this area. Increasing the number of bison is important not only for the survival of the species, but also for local biodiversity,” Magor Csibi, from the environmental group WWF, said.

The bison will first live in a re-wilding zone to learn survival skills and also to form a solid social herd structure, according to conservationists.

WWF and Rewilding Europe organisation are the driving forces behind the relocation action, with the bisons caming from Germany, Italiy, Sweden and Switzerland.

They hope that in the long run the herd from the Tarcu Mountains will grow to around 500 animals.

The Carpathians are among the last remaining unspoilt environments in Europe. The mountains are home to more than 1,200 plant species, but also to many animal species long driven out of other areas of Europe by industrialisation and modern life, such as as brown bear, lynx and the wolf. The 2,500-metre-high peaks are also home to rare eagles and many other wild birds.

The European bison is the heaviest surviving wild animal in Europe today.

Captive breeding programmes in European zoos and reintroductions have led to a gradual increase in numbers, and the project in Romania aims to establish a self-sustaining population there and boost the variety of wildlife in the region.

Reintroductions have already established free-ranging and semi-free herds in Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

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