Rewilding News: Bison are back in Britain

Wild bison have been released into the Kent countryside this week as part of a £1.2million project to ‘rewild’ Britain.

The huge beasts, which weigh up to a ton, have been extinct in this country for 6,000 years.

Now it is hoped the European bison will help to revitalise ancient woodland and create an ‘explosion of biodiversity’. 

Initially, one male and three female bison – a bull from Germany, a matriarch from Scotland and two youngsters from Ireland – are being introduced. It is hoped they will breed over time to create a herd.

The European bison – the continent’s largest land mammal – are a close relative of the type that once roamed the UK, the extinct steppe bison. They are slightly larger than the American bison, but less heavy and aggressive.

The animals are known as ‘eco-system engineers’, creating muddy ponds, pushing down trees and disturbing the soil to help plants and other animals thrive.

They have been released into a large fenced off enclosure in West Blean and Thornden Woods, near Canterbury. Donovan Wright, who will look after their welfare in the former commercial pine plantation, said: ‘You get this ricochet effect through the ecosystem, so many species are able to benefit.’

Evan Bowen-Jones, chief executive of Kent Wildlife Trust, added: ‘We need to revolutionise the way we restore natural landscapes – relying less on human intervention and more on natural engineers such as bison, boar and beaver.’