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Urgent actions for the recovery of European Bison populations in Romania (LIFE RE-Bison)
Start date: Jan 1, 2016, End date: Mar 31, 2021 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Background The European bison (Bison bonasus) or wisent, is Europe’s largest wild land mammal. It once roamed all across the continent. However, it was hunted to near extinction by 1927, when only 54 individuals remained, all in captivity. A slow but successful breeding and reintroduction effort in Central and Eastern Europe helped to re-establish a wild population. Today, the population of the European bison in Romania is around 140 animals, of which 63 are in the wild. The Southern Carpathians are one of the most favourable areas to initiate a large-scale European bison reintroduction, because the area has little fragmentation and low human intrusion. This will enable the establishment of a bison meta-population, formed of various sub-populations interconnected through ecological corridors. After a pre-feasibility study (2011) and a detailed feasibility study (2013), the Armenis-Plopu area in the Tarcu Mountains has been selected for the reintroduction of the European bison. Local authorities, stakeholders and community leaders in this area welcomed the idea of the bison reintroduction, and offered 70 ha of communal land plus 60 ha of forest for the first introduction. Since May 2014, 17 individuals have been released into the wild and 18 more are being prepared for release. Objectives The overall aim of the LIFE RE-Bison project is to enable the successful recovery of the European bison in the Tarcu and Poiana Rusca Mountains in southwest Romania. The specific objectives are to: Establish a free-roaming, genetically and demographically viable sub-population of the European bison, comprising around 185 animals; Create new economic activities in the area based on the bison; Reduce conflicts between these bison and rural economic activities; Stimulate a positive attitude among local stakeholders in support of the European bison; and Increase public awareness and interest in the conservation of the European bison. Expected results: An increased population of European bison in Romania, from around 30 at the end of 2015 to 185, through the successful introduction of over 100 animals; A demographically and genetically viable population that survives without further structured reintroduction in the two designated areas; A healthy population, not exposed to serious threats from disease or parasites; New economic incentives, providing fertile ground for a positive local attitude towards the bison; and Increased public awareness and understanding of the importance of the bison for the designated areas.
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