WWF and Rewilding Europe establish а bison breeding centre in Romania | WWF
WWF and Rewilding Europe establish а bison breeding centre in Romania

Posted on 01 June 2016

It is now home to two bison, a male and a female
The Hunedoara Zoo in the Romanian Carpathians is now home to two recently relocated bison. This is the first step toward establishing the zoo as a bison breeding centre and marks the start of a new, important stage in the process of bringing back the iconic species to Romania. Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania have been working to bring bison back to the Southern Carpathians since 2013. The process is supported by various zoos and wildlife parks throughout Europe.
The male and the female bison were donated by the Bielefeld Zoo in Germany and the Grottes de Han Wildlife Park in Belgium and arrived in Hunedoara Zoo on 25 May. The female was born in Wisentgehege Springe, a bison reserve in Germany, and hosted in Belgium for over a year. Prior to their arrival, the Hunedoara Zoo set up a 6,000-square-metre enclosure for the bison.
The breeding centre will reduce the risks to young bison posed by transportation from kilometres away. The centre is being established by Rewilding Europe, WWF-Romania, the Hunedoara Zoo and local authorities in the framework of the project “Urgent measures to restore the bison population in Romania" funded by the European Commission’s LIFE programme.
"Under certain conditions, a zoo can be directly involved in the preservation of endangered species by providing the necessary facilities and professional personnel"said Magor Csibi, director of WWF Romania. 
The bison born in the Hunedoara Zoo breeding centre will, after reaching a certain age, be released in two areas in the Southern Carpathians – the Tarcu Mountains and the Poiana Rusca Mountains. Over the coming years, other female bison from zoos and wildlife parks across Europe will be transported to Hunedoara to diversify the gene pool.
"Each day, at least 11 species disappear around the world and it is our duty to fight for those we can still save. It is in our power to protect wildlife and natural habitats that ensure the health of our environment", says Alexandru Bulacu, a WWF specialist in the bison rewilding initiative.
The European bison (Bison bonasus) is the largest land mammal in Europe. It was once present throughout the continent except some areas in Spain, Italy and northern Scandinavia. However, today it is rarer in the wild than the black rhino. The global population of the European bison is now said to be 5, 046 (January 2014). Of these, only some 3, 230 live in free or semi-free herds.
Romania is one of the nine European countries that host wild bison. The bison’s grazing and browsing help maintain a mosaic of forest areas and grasslands and create more variation and structure in the landscape. If it is successfully re-introduced and its habitat is effectively preserved, the species will help maintain the ecological corridors across the entire Carpathian Mountain range and allow natural processes to occur. 

Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania have been working together in the Southern Carpathians rewilding area for several years already. In cooperation with the local community in Armeniş, authorities at a local, regional and national level, and other stakeholders, two bison releases already took place in the Tarcu Mountains Natura 2000 site, in 2014 and in 2015, bringing 28 bison to the area.
A third release is about to take place on 11 June, 2016. This will bring WWF-Romania and Rewilding Europe one step closer to their goal – building a viable population of at least 300 animals by 2024 (including offspring), consisting of different herds roaming the area and connecting with each other.


The first bison arriving in the Hunedoara bison breeding centre
© Adrian Hagatis / WWF