Friday 22 March 2019

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Cork Independent

Lifestyle & Leisure

No baby blues for bison!

Wednesday, 27th February, 2019 3:26pm

Celebrations are in full swing at Fota Wildlife Park following the birth of a European bison.

The new arrival, born to Erika and Hyssop on 4 January, is settling in well with the rest of the herd.

The proud parents are well known at the park. Erika is one of the founding members of the Fota herd, originally coming from the Skansen Foundation Zoo in Stockholm while Hyssop is the dominant bull of the herd, who came to Fota from Port Lympne Reserve in the UK five years ago.

Erika is well practised in the art of parenting as this is her thirteenth calf and she has over 50 grandchildren in various zoological institutions across Europe, all of them participating in the European Endangered Species Programme.

Last month, Park Director Sean McKeown and Lead Ranger Aidan Rafferty visited Vanatori Neamt Nature Park in Romania where two female bison from the Fota herd are thriving since they were sent there as part of a re-introduction programme in 2014.

Lead Ranger, Aidan Rafferty said: “It’s very exciting for us to welcome a new female calf to the herd, especially as the European bison was extinct in the wild but has since undergone a population regrowth thanks to the efforts and coordinated initiatives from zoological institutions, including Fota, as the species has been re-introduced from captive populations back to their native habitats in Eastern Europe.

“It is amazing to see the conservation work that Fota Wildlife Park does, come to life, literally, in the wilds of the Carpathian Mountains as the two females from Fota plus their offspring have become part of this free-roaming herd. It is great to be a part of this long-term conservation plan that has seen the European bison re-established to the wild in Poland, Romania and other European countries.”

The European bison, also known as the wisent is a distinctive looking animal with a thickset body, short neck and a visible hump at the shoulder. They have a dark brown mane under the neck and forehead and visitors to the park will notice that the bison are currently moulting their rich winter coats. As the largest land mammal in Europe, a big bull can weigh up to 1,000 kilos and can reach a height of six feet.

Although classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the baby bison is just one indication that the breed’s future is bright.

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