Conservation of endangered species and environments is something I think should play a vital role in the work done by zoos. Keeping genetically important animals that in a longer perspective – and maybe also a worst case scenario – could be used for reintroductions in the wild is something done by most modern zoos and aquaria. If we look in a closer perspective, or even in our history books, we also find species which environments already have been stabilized enough to make reintroduction possible today.
How European zoos protected the last bisons
The European bison is a great example. For hundreds of years the populations were decreasing all over Europe and during World War I most of the remains of the once flourishing polish population were killed by troops. The last wild European bison were killed in Western Caucausus in the year of 1927. Luckily, 50 individuals were still found in zoos.
This lead to the first ever studbook of a non domesticated animal, first published all the way back in 1932. The studbook came to be vital for the remains of the bison in European zoos leading the way for one of the most successful reintroduction programs ever undertaken.
First started in the early 50s, the reintroduction of the European bisons has been carried out thanks to zoological facilities in Europe. Most of the population today is found in Poland, but smaller populations is also found in Germany, Romania and Belarus. Animals are still bred and released in to the wild by zoos, recently some of our bison were sent to Romania to increase the population in the Tarcu mountains.
This is the kind of work zoos should strive for, and be proud of.
Reintroduction, introduction and bringing life to the extinct
The European bison has a niche not fully fulfilled by any other species taking there space. Therefore the reintroduction was vital for the environment and other species living in it. Research shows that an area were the schrubs and grass had been eaten by bisons had scientifically more insect and plant species living there compared with an area were the plants got to grow freely. There are now a project group investigating the possibilities of releasing bisons in the Swedish forests, areas close to our wildlife park. This is not just because the bisons once roamed the Swedish woodlands, but also because no other animal have taken over their niche here. It dosen’t have to be bison, it could also be some kind of sheep. I personally would love to see bison in the forests in our surrounding one day, and hope that we could be part of the reintroduction.
There are also other similar conservation projects out there, not based on the need of the species itself, more the fact that the species, or an ancient forefather once lived there. For example taking tigers to Africa or bringing Lions to America. Other examples are to form species that looks like their forefathers, by using DNA from different subspecies or even from remains. These project does not have the environmental outset, but are made to form a perfect world that is already lost. A world made for humans to admire instead of focusing on the species and the enviorments on the brink of extinction
Where should the resources go?
My standpoint is that the extinct is already lost, let’s focus on what we can protect before it’s to late. And the European bison is an excellent example of just that.
See you soon again,