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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

European conservationists exchange bison from several breeding groups to enhance genetic diversity

Two bison bulls were transported by conservationists from the European Serengeti reserve, which is located in the former military training area of Milovice near Prague, to the Zidlov game reserve, managed by Military Forests and Farms in the former military training area of Ralsko.

The bison
The bison. Photo credit: Lukas Pavlacik

The transport of the first two animals marked the start of a new bison breeding group in the Lipno reserve in south Bohemia. It has been home to a herd of wild horses since last year, and it is bison that will join them in the upcoming weeks.

“Despite facing challenging conditions, we managed to capture two bulls that we had planned. The males aged two and three years were successfully released in the game reserve of Vojenské lesy a statky in Zidlov,” explained Dalibor Dostal, director of conservation organisation, European Wildlife, which founded the Milovice reserve in cooperation with scientists in 2015.

Chances for success were reportedly not high.

“Following long-term rains, the ground was so waterlogged that the equipment sunk into the mud, and it was very hard to get to the animals in such adverse conditions,” added Dostal.

In exchange for the two bison bulls, the conservationists will receive two female bison from the Zidlov game reserve, which will become the basis of a new breeding group in Lipno. A further two females will be provided by Chomutov Zoo. A bull will then arrive from the European Serengeti reserve.

“The aim is to ensure that the newly established bison breeding group in Lipno is genetically as diverse as possible. After the First World War, bison were exterminated in the wild by humans and only survived in breeding groups in captivity. All the animals originate from just twelve individuals, and the rarer Bialowieza line that we breed traces back to a mere seven foundation animals. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the greatest possible genetic variability when setting up new herds,” concluded Dostal.

The exchange of animals is not the first in which the bison breeding group in the European Serengeti reserve has been involved. From Milovice, bison have headed, for example, to France and the Netherlands. The European Serengeti reserve has the biggest herd of bison in the Czech Republic. At the end of 2023, a total of 43 animals lived there.

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