The European bison (Bison bonasus), also known as wisent (/ˈviːzənt/ or /ˈwiːzənt/) or the European wood bison, is a Eurasian species of bison. It is one of two extant species of bison, alongside the American bison.
European bison were hunted to extinction in the wild, with the last wild animals being shot in the Białowieża Forest (on the Poland-Belarus border) in 1919 and in the North-Western Caucasus in 1927, but have since been reintroduced from captivity into several countries in Europe, all descendants of the Białowieża or lowland European bison. They are now forest-dwelling. They have few predators (besides humans), with only scattered reports from the 19th century of wolf and bear predation. European bison were first scientifically described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Some later descriptions treat the European bison as conspecific with the American bison. It is not to be confused with the aurochs, the extinct ancestor of domestic cattle.
In 1996 the IUCN classified the European bison as an endangered species. It has since been downgraded to a vulnerable species. In the past it was commonly killed to produce hides and drinking horns, especially during the Middle Ages.
European Bison in Minsk Zoo
A 2003 study of mitochondrial DNA indicated four distinct maternal lineages in tribe Bovini:
Taurine cattle and Zebu,
American bison and Yak, and
Banteng, Gaur, and Gayal.
However, Y chromosome analysis associated wisent and American bison.(1) An earlier study using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) fingerprinting showed a close association of wisent and American bison and probably with yak, but noted that the interbreeding of Bovini species made determining relationships problematic. (2)
Wisent-American bison hybrids were briefly experimented with in Germany and a herd of such animals is maintained in Russia. A herd of cattle-wisent crossbreeds (Zubron) is maintained in Poland. First-generation crosses do not occur naturally, requiring caesarean delivery. First-generation males are infertile.
Source :1.Verkaar, EL; Nijman, IJ; Beeke, M; Hanekamp, E; Lenstra, JA (2004). "Maternal and Paternal Lineages in Cross-Breeding Bovine Species. Has Wisent a Hybrid Origin?". Molecular biology and evolution 21 (7): 1165–70. doi:10.1093/molbev/msh064. PMID 14739241.
2^ Buntjer, J B; Otsen, M; Nijman, I J; Kuiper, M T R; Lenstra, J A (2002). "Phylogeny of bovine species based on AFLP fingerprinting". Heredity 88 (1): 46–51. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6800007. PMID 11813106.
Bison in North America, Europe and Asia
Although technically not buffalo, American bison and European wisent are commonly called buffalo. The bison and the wisent share a common ancestor and are similar in appearance; both reach about 6 feet at the shoulder, and both can weight a ton. The American bison (Bison bison) population had dwindled to less than 1,000 before efforts to preserve the bison began in 1894 with the first laws making it illegal to hunt bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Wisent (Bison bonasus) was extinct in the wild by 1919; only a few wisents alive in zoos. As of 2006, about 1,800 wisents in wild herds exist due to reintroduction in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and Slovakia.
May 21 2013
After being released into the wild in Germany just last month, a herd of wisents has welcomed its first calf. The first European bison to be born free in Germany in centuries has been named "Quintus," and appears to be healthy.
For the first time in centuries, a European bison, or wisent, has been born in the wild in Germany, conservationists announced on Tuesday. The calf, which arrived early this month, belongs to a herd that was released in April.
The young wisent seems "perky," said Jochen Born, a ranger at Wisent Welt Wittgenstein, the forest sanctuary surrounding the western German town of Bad Berleberg that is home to the animals. But any hikers hoping to catch a glimpse of the typically shy bison should keep their distance, he added, because the species is known for fiercely protecting its young.
The calf is the fifth to be born since the sanctuary began its project to reintroduce European bison to their native habitat. The fact that it was born outside of a corral in the Rothaar Mountain region is a "great success," its website said. ..................(more)
Bison farmers may have to quit
A couple who have been farming Bison for 13 years say government red tape could put them out of business.
George and Ruth Wakeling keep 140 Bison at their farm near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.
They say they are being forced to comply with EU rules on animal welfare, which should not apply to wild creatures.
1:52pm, Thu 29 Aug 2013 Bison farmers may quit
Factfile on bison - the animals now classed as bovine
Last updated Thu 29 Aug 2013UK
Submitted by MRamona on September 08th, 2013
Five European bison – 2 females and 3 males – were released in the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park in the eastern part of the Romanian Carpathian Mountains on March 22. The last record of wild bison in Romania dates back to 1852.
“It is a historical day in the conservation history of Romania” says Sebastian Catanoiu, manager of the Nature Park. “It took us 10 years to take this first step. Very soon new releases will follow, not just in Vanatori Neamt but also in other parts of the Romanian Carpathians.”
A programme to reintroduce bison in the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park started in 2003 with animals originating from breeding centres in Switzerland, Germany and Sweden. Not far from the borders of Moldova and Ukraine, the species has a historical stronghold in this region. According to legends, the medieval state of Moldova was founded during a bison hunt close to the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park – at that time known as the “Bison Land”. Since then the bison serves as the symbol of Moldova and is also represented on the Romanian flag.
MINSK, 25 September (BelTA) – The implementation of the Union State program with a focus on the formation of an optimal areal of the European bison as a guarantee for its long-term presence (Roadmap for Bison) in 2014-2018 will provide an additional safety net for the species, Director General of the sci-tech center for bioresources under the National Academy of Sciences Mikhail Nikiforov told BelTA at the 8th CIS Forum of Creative and Academic Intellectuals on 24 September.
“The program has already been approved by the Union State Permanent Committee. The major goal of the program is a long-term conservation of the bison population. The level we have reached allows keeping the animal just for a short period of time. We should work on the formation of big populations, over 1,000 bison, to roam free independently from human beings. The effort will help eliminate negative factors common for small herbs, including congruent crossing,” Mikhail Nikiforov noted.
“We have enough bisons for resettling part of them to the vast territories of Russia and by doing this provide an additional safety net for this species,” Mikhail Nikiforov said.
According to Conservation Program Director at WWF Russia Victoria Elias, the CIS ecological network development program envisages preservation of rare species, including bisons. Thus, there are plans to set up an international working group to coordinate restoration and preservation of bisons, selection of new territories for recovery of wild bison herbs. There are also plans for developing cross-border cooperation between Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in restoring bison populations and developing cross-border specially protected areas.
European bison have made a comeback in areas of central and eastern Europe. Photograph: Stefano Unterthiner/Wild Wonders of Europe
A report selected 37 species that have showed signs of recovery since 1960, and examined reasons for these success stories
(Photo: Nico van Kappel/ Buiten-beeld/Minden Pictures/Corbis)
Aug 20414 This story features European bison, a distinct species. Those animals once ranged across all of lowland Europe, but began a steady march toward extinction as far back as the 8th century A.D., when they went extinct in what is today France. The European bison managed to hold out for a surprisingly long time, however. The last known wild individual was shot and killed in the Caucasus in 1927.
Just as in the case of the American bison, however, that was not the end for the European bison. As the Guardian reports, around 50 individuals remained in captivity, and zoo keepers continued to breed them over the years. Beginning in the 1950s, a handful of countries, including Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, Russia, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan, became interested in reestablishing their historic bison populations, the Guardian continues.
Just this week, another 17 bison were released in Romania's Carpathian mountains, where they have not been found for at least two centuries. In total, around 3,200 animals now live in the wild in Europe.