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Wisent populations thrive in Eastern Europe

02/10/13

Europe: An international conference ‘Wisent in the Carpathians’ has heard that two new populations of free-living wisents emerged in Europe last year: in Romania and in central Russia.

The first group of wisents were released into the wild in Romania’s Vanatori Neamt Natural Park in the spring of 2012, and a year later another five-member group were added to the wisent population in the same area.

Overall, there are now 112 animals in Romanian breeding centres, and these semi-free populations represent 75% of the whole Romanian wisent population, which creates a solid basis for new reintroduction programmes.

In central Russia in 2012, a group of wisents were released into the wild in the Bryansk Region. Wisents had first been released in this area in 1997, but due to unforeseen difficulties with the reintroduction project, the animals were transferred to other areas in 2002. The present project, however, has proven to be a success, and there are now 10 wisents living freely in the Bryansk Region.

The development of a wisent population in Belarus is perhaps shown the most optimistic results. Indeed, since 1994 a total of 95 wisents have been captured in the Belarusian part of Bialowieza National Park and subsequently re-distributed to various other parts of the country. From this, four new and successful populations have arisen, thanks to which the Belarusian wisent population has increased from 374 up to the present number of 1,156. The biggest populations of freely living wisents are in Belarus (1156), Poland (1080) and Russia (537).

Dalibor Dostal, director of European Wildlife, commented: “Although wisent populations are rising, the protection of these animals still deserves a lot of attention. The European Wildlife organisation is therefore working on a project which should bring the wisent back to central Europe.”

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