Wild bison to roam free in UK for first time in 6,000 years

Herd from Europe to be released in Kent in bid to ‘restore an ancient habitat’

A herd of European bison graze in the Rothaargebirge mountain range near Bad Berleburg, Germany
(Image credit: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

Wild bison will soon be found roaming in UK woodland for the first time in 6,000 years thanks to a £1m project to restore local wildlife.

Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust are overseeing the plan to import and release European bison - the continent’s largest land mammal - at Blean Woods, a former pine wood plantation near Canterbury.

The European bison, which will be reintroduced to the area by spring 2022, “is the closest living relative to ancient steppe bison, which once roamed Britain”, says the BBC.

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One male and three females will be released into a “fenced enclosure away from public footpaths”, reports London Evening Standard, which adds that conservatists are relying on “natural breeding” to increase the size of the herd.

The four bison will come from either the Netherlands or Poland, “where similar releases have been successful and safe”, according to the newspaper.

Environmentalists say that bison are a “keystone species” that can naturally manage woodlands and act as “ecosystem engineers”, Insider reports. The animals “fell trees by eating their bark or rubbing up against them”, creating “wide and sunny clearings, which in turn will help native plants to thrive”, the news site explains.

Paul Hadaway of Kent Wildlife Trust said that “a wilder, nature-based solution is the right one to tackle 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,” he added.

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Joe Evans is the world news editor at TheWeek.co.uk. He joined the team in 2019 and held roles including deputy news editor and acting news editor before moving into his current position in early 2021. He is a regular panellist on The Week Unwrapped podcast, discussing politics and foreign affairs. 

Before joining The Week, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the UK and Ireland for German newspapers and magazines. A series of features on Brexit and the Irish border got him nominated for the Hostwriter Prize in 2019. Prior to settling down in London, he lived and worked in Cambodia, where he ran communications for a non-governmental organisation and worked as a journalist covering Southeast Asia. He has a master’s degree in journalism from City, University of London, and before that studied English Literature at the University of Manchester.