Home World News Bison will be released into UK woodland to help restore ancient habitat

Bison will be released into UK woodland to help restore ancient habitat

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Bison will be released into UK woodland to help restore ancient habitat

Bison are being introduced to a British woodland in a project to restore an ancient habitat and its wildlife.

European bison, the continent’s largest land mammal, are the closest living relative to ancient steppe bison that would have once roamed Britain and naturally managed the habitat, conservationists said.

The move is part of a £1 million project led by Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust to help manage Blean Woods near Canterbury, Kent.

A closely-knit herd of four European bison will be introduced into a fenced enclosure away from public footpaths, in what is the first time the animals have been introduced to a nature reserve to help wildlife in the UK.

They will be within a wider 500 hectare (1,200 acre) area which will also use other grazing animals such as Konik ponies to create varied and healthy habitat.

Despite their size, with adult males weighing up to a tonne, bison are peaceful, and no other species can perform the job of engineering the habitat in quite the same way.

They fell trees by rubbing up against them and eat bark, creating areas of space and light in the woods and providing deadwood which will help other plants and animals.

Kent Wildlife Trust said patches of bare earth creating by the bison “dust bathing” would be good for lizards, burrowing wasps and rare arable weeds, while bark stripping would create standing deadwood that benefits fungi and insects such as stag beetles.

Bison releases have been successful in other countries to help boost wildlife.

Paul Hadaway, director of Conservation at Kent Wildlife Trust said: “The Wilder Blean project will prove that a wilder, nature-based solution is the right one to tackling the climate and nature crisis we now face.

“Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape.”

Paul Whitfield, director general of Wildwood Trust said: “The partners in this project have long dreamt of restoring the true wild woodlands that have been missing from England for too long.

“This will allow people to experience nature in a way they haven’t before, connecting them back to the natural world around them in a deeper and more meaningful way.”

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