Bison return to the wild in the U.K. for first time in thousands of years

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Bison can be seen in the wild in the U.K. for the first time in thousands of years thanks to a pioneering conservation project based in ancient woodland in Kent.

Three females were released into the wild in West Blean and Thornden Woods, near Canterbury, Kent, on Monday 18 July 2022, amid the unprecedented heatwave sweeping the country.

They will be joined by a young bull from Germany, whose arrival was delayed by import complications related to Brexit, next month. Conservationists hope the bison will create a more climate resilient landscape as their natural behaviours will help restore the forest by naturally felling trees, so it will move away from being a monoculture, and wetter areas that will not only store carbon but reduce flood risk.

This is the first time in thousands of years that wild bison have roamed in U.K. woodlands as part of a landmark experiment to test this nature-based solution to habitat management as well as combatting the climate and nature crises.

Evan Bowen-Jones, Chief Executive Officer at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: "The restoration of naturally functioning ecosystems is a vital and inexpensive tool in tackling the climate crisis. The bison will help to create climate-resistant landscapes which can adapt to the challenges presented by the crisis we face.

"We want Wilder Blean to mark the beginning of a new era for conservation in the UK. We need to revolutionise the way we restore natural landscapes, relying less on human intervention and more on natural engineers like bison, boar and beaver."

The 7,000 bison which remain in Europe are descended from just 12 zoo animals after going more or less extinct in the wild during the first half of the 20th Century. They have been absent from Britain much longer after being wiped out due to hunting.

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