The reintroduction of wild bison marks a new era for British conservation –

The reintroduction of wild bison marks a new era for British conservation

It’s hoped they’ll soon start breeding, with calves possibly as early as next spring, but they aren’t just here for the sake of bringing back bison.

They’ve also got a job to do. How well they perform will be closely monitored and compared with what soon-to-arrive longhorn cattle can do in a separate area of ​​similar size and condition. There’s also a control area which will continue to be maintained by human hands.

Their job is to demonstrate the natural behaviors which have earned them the tag “ecosystem engineers”. Simply by going about their daily lives, they also affect the environment to the benefit of other creatures. At Wilder Blean that means regenerating an area of ​​ancient woodland damaged by commercial forestry.

Densely packed pines may be great for timber production, but they create a monoculture, overshadowing all around them and in which very little wildlife can live. By creating layers within the forest and naturally falling trees, the bison will help the woodland become more biodiverse, and wetter areas will not only store carbon, but reduce flood risk.

Evan Bowen-Jones, the chief executive of the Kent Wildlife Trust, explained how they’ve managed the woodland until now: “A work party might [happen] every couple of weeks at best [but] more realistically every couple of months and [it means] going out with chainsaws, trucks, getting into a thick area of ​​woodland or pine that you need to clear.

“Even with the best will in the world you then have to leave it while you concentrate on other things and by the time you come back you’ve got the same issues – and this is a massive block of land… so it doesn’t ‘t even really touch the sides of what needs to be done.

“You’d have to have volunteers and wardens with chainsaws here 24/7 [but] the bison live here! So they’ll become the 24/7, day-in-day-out, year-round, all weather, eco-friendly bulldozers.”


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