Russian scientists’ efforts targeted to recover European bison (Bison bonasus) which are exterminated everywhere have succeeded. According to the results of the all-Russian accounting of the bison quantity, their population has grown by 20% within the last five years. Herds of these relic ungulates living at large is a dream that has good chances to come true.
The last wild bison were exterminated by 1927, only 48 animals remained scattered all over the Zoos of different countries, although in former times they used to reign in the forest expanses of Europe. It took about seventy years of rearing – first in the zoological gardens, then in the breeding nurseries in the natural environment to recover the species. Thanks to the scientists’ effort, by the end of the 20th century bison all over the world numbered almost three thousand, out of which 1,738 bison lived in free populations in Poland and the former USSR. The international community of researchers involved in the species recovery has won the victory: no longer is there a threat of extinction to the bison.
Nevertheless, it is premature to rest on our laurels as the species can not exist without assistance from people. The major problem the species faces is the deficiency of genetic diversity. All contemporary bison originate from only twelve bulls, this number being too small. Forced to interbreed with near relations, bison produce weakened posterity. Thoroughbred bison in Russia are now 350 in number– these are the counting results published at the research-and-practical conference in the Prioksko- terraced preserve. However, the rescue of bison can be ensured only by establishment of large free populations containing a thousand of animals or even more.
Sergey Komarov | alfa
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