WATCH: Bison Birth Marks First Wild UK Calf in Thousands of Years

by Lauren Boisvert
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(Photo by Marcia Straub/Getty Images)

Bison were reintroduced to Kent County, England this summer as part of a “rewilding” program, according to the BBC. Now, a new bison calf has been born, making it the first one born in the UK in thousands of years.

The bison have almost 500 acres in Kent to roam. The rewilding project began in 2021, introducing the bison this summer. The key species in the program are the European bison, Exmoor ponies, long-horn cattle, and iron-age pigs. The program is officially called the Wilder Blean project. It aims to bring key species back to Blean Woods Nature Reserve in Kent.

The bison are a crucial part of maintaining and managing the woodlands. The goal of introducing bison, horses, cattle, and pigs into the reserve is to figure out what impact they have on natural habitats. It’s also to maintain the woodlands without machinery. The goal is also to protect the European bison through the European Endangered Species program.

What Reintroducing Bison Means for England

In late July, National Geographic spoke with two bison rangers for the Blean Woods rewilding program. Rangers Tom and Don spoke about the significance of bringing bison back to the woods. They also explained what the animals will be doing and why the project itself is so important to the UK.

When asked about what the bison project entails, Tom replied, “Essentially, we’re introducing four wild bison to Blean Woods, five miles outside of Canterbury. The original herd consists of one matriarchal female from Scotland who’ll be the leader, deciding where they go, when they feed, where they ruminate and so on — basically, she’s the boss. Then we’ve got two younger females or cows from Ireland and, finally, a bull from Germany to complete the set.”

Coincidentally, the interviewer asked if there would be a baby bison anytime soon. We know now that there is one, but at the time there were strong hopes. “The acclimatizing period is the defining factor, but as long as they have enough food and space, which we’re confident they do, they’ll hopefully breed next year,” said Tom. We didn’t even have to wait until next year!

Bison Rangers Talk About the Importance of the Animals’ Presence in the Blean Woods Nature Reserve

“Recently bison have been taken up to threatened status [in Europe] and we want to contribute to the European-wide drive to safeguard their future,” Tom explained. “Plus they will be the first native bison to Kent! It’ll be amazing to see how each generation will shape Blean for the better.”

This project is incredibly important for the UK specifically, said Don. He claimed the goal is also to bring people back to natural spaces. “In the UK there’s a big disconnect with what we deem to be wild and what actually is,” he said. “If we go for a walk in the countryside, for example, it’s very unlikely we’ll come across large, free-roaming herbivores that help shape the environment in a positive way. A big part of what we’re hoping to achieve with the project is getting people inspired by nature, and aware of what a wild space really should look like.”

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