The Polish statuesque bison is the pride not only of Białowieża Forest but of the whole country as well. After 85 years of struggling, the scientists managed to provide the species with relative security.
Today’s bizon population dates back to 1929 and 1930. A male Borusse together with two females called Biserta and Biskaya were brought to Białowieża from German and Swedish zoological gardens. The breeding started in September 1929. Even though the 19th century saw a great number of bison, between 1920 and 1928 there were none! It was caused by the fact that during the World War the animals were killed for food.
In 1924 Forestry Commission “Rezerwat” was started in Białowieża which originated the National Park in Białowieża with the bison as its symbol. Under the rescue plan for the species, the first bison were set free in the Forest in 1952. These days scientists unanimously assess that the regeneration of the bison population was successful but they differ in opinions on how to deal with the species. There are currently about five thousand bison all over the world, out of which approximately 500 in the Białowieża Forest. The Polish bison reserve makes the most populous free-living herd in the world.
The greatest threat to bison are diseases and parasites – explains Rafał Kowalczyk, Director of the Mammal Research Institute at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża. By way of example, a whole herd was slaughtered in Bieszczady Mountains due to tuberculosis; there is also a risk of BTV.
“One of key problems for bison protection is limited area for the species. Bison is the largest extant land animal living in Europe and it needs vast space” Kowalczyk said. In his opinion, former military training grounds could serve as potential areas for bison. (Polish Press Agency)