Bison are back in Britain: Wild Bison released in England woodlands today for ‘rewilding’

Four European Bison have been released into ancient woodlands near Canterbury as part of a £1.12 million project to transform the ecosystem.

This morning four Bison have been released into an ancient woodland in Kent, south-east England.

This is the first time these herbivorous bovines have been introduced to the British wilds.

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The ‘Wilder Blean Project’, led by the Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust, is being done to counter nature and climate crises, according to conservationists.

One of four of bison explores her surroundings as they are released into West Blean and Thornden Woods, near Canterbury in Kent. The herd of four wild bison will be the first released into the UK, as part of a project to restore natural biodiversity of the area. Picture date: Monday July 18, 2022.

Why are Bison being released in Britain?

Bison are being released into the Kent countryside today as part of the £.12 million ‘Wilder Blean Project’ to “rewild” Britain and combat global warming.

It is hoped that they will help to revitalise the woodlands by triggering an “explosion of biodiversity” that could combat climate change.

How will Bison tackle climate change?

Donovan Wright (right) and Tom Gibbs, the UK's first-ever Bison Rangers, get to know a Bison at the Wildwood Trust , near Canterbury in Kent ahead of beginning work at West Blean Woods. Picture date: Wednesday July 28, 2021.

Bison are known as “ecosystem engineers.”

They scrape away at trees, create muddy ponds via their huge weight, and disturb soil in a way that allows other plants to thrive.

Such activity creates microhabitats like glades which house plant species or standing deadwood for fungi (which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.)

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Therefore, without such large herbivores roaming British woodlands this creates an environment that is more favourable to some species than others.

This lack of habitat management has harmed biodiversity as “plant declines aren’t slowing,” according to the New Scientist report.

Paul Whitfield, director-general of the Wildwood Trust, said: “They will create an explosion of biodiversity and build habitat resilience, locking in carbon to help reduce temperature rise. This will act as a huge catalyst for change.”

Evan Bowen-Jones, Chief Executive at Kent Wildlife Trust, added: “The restoration of naturally functioning ecosystems is a vital and inexpensive tool in tackling the climate crisis.”

What type of Bison is being introduced to Britain?

European Bison - the largest land mammal found in Europe - are being introduced to Britain.

The huge herbivores can weigh up to a ton, and are close relatives of the ‘Steppe Bison’ that has been extinct in Britain for 6,000 years.

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This species is larger than the American bison, but with a less aggressive temperament.

There are four Bison being released in Britain: a bull from Germany, a matriarch from Scotland, and two calves from Ireland.

Researchers hope they will breed and eventually create a herd.

Where were the Bison released into Britain?

The four bison were released into a fenced-off enclosure in West Blean and Thornden Woods, close to Canterbury.

Donovan Wright, one of Britain’s first ever Bison Rangers, will see to their welfare in the former commercial pine plantation.

When discussing the impact of Bison on British wildlife, he said: “You get this ricochet effect through the ecosystem, so many species are able to benefit.”

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Large wild animals like Bison have not been present in Britain for “over 1,000 years.”

So, it is hoped this move will not only improve UK biodiversity, but also reconnect people with nature in a way that has been impossible for millennia.

Bowen-Jones said he hopes visitors will be “inspired” by the majestic beasts roaming Britain once again.