Another baby bison was born in the Eastern Rhodopes. The new addition is male and was born in the second half of May and now the herd has reached 12 animals. This is the fourth animal to be born free south of the Danube in centuries since bison were released into the wild in the Rhodopes in 2019.
“The baby and his mother are feeling well. The other members of the bison herd are involved in caring for the baby bison. This year we observed interesting animal behaviour – all the females separated and returned after nearly two weeks with the already newborn. Usually only the mother separates from the herd to give birth “, shares Hristo Hristov, a member of the team of the Wilder Rhodopes Foundation.
After their release from the adaptation fence in 2019, the animals have gradually started to occupy their ecological niche and make seasonal migrations – they spend the autumn and winter in the lower part of the Studen Kladenets rewilding area, and in the spring they gradually climb to the higher and hard-to-reach parts of the rewilding area.
The first animals in the area were brought to the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria in October 2013 from Germany. In 2017, two young animals, a donation from the zoo in Zuhl, Germany joined the group, and in October 2020, two more bison again donated from two European zoos – the Hungarian Zoo Sosto and the Bratislava Zoo in Slovakia.
The European bison, a cousin of the North American bison, is the largest wild herbivore in Europe. As a grazer, it contributes to the maintenance of open forest ecosystems, and is an iconic animal for the rewilding process in Europe.
Severe hunting pressure and habitat loss saw the European bison become extinct in the wild in Europe in the early 20th century, although it had already disappeared from Bulgaria centuries earlier. A large reintroduction programme based on captive species saw wild populations eventually restored in Central and Eastern Europe (mainly in Poland and Belarus), while a small herd was also reintroduced in the 1960s to a hunting reserve in northern Bulgaria. In Studen Kladenets the bison coexist with fallow deer, red deer, wolves, vultures and many other rare and endangered species of animals and birds.