European Bison Return to Wild in Germany


As soon as his offspring are sexually mature, Egnar, the bull, will have to leave the herd. Another bull will take his place and remain with the herd until his offspring are mature. Rigorous family planning is necessary, because inbreeding will result if fresh genes are not introduced to the gene pool.

Wanda Olech of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences decides which male is to be brought into the German herd. She is familiar with all wisents, because she manages the studbook. Her objective is to select a bull that is as unrelated as possible to the cows in the Rothaar Mountains.

The two leaders of the herd have also been fitted with a GPS transmitter. Using a relatively non-interventional method that dispenses with fences and dogs, Röhl and his team intend to limit the animals' territory to roughly 40 square kilometers, or about a third of the estate. The winter feeding area is supposed to serve as their actual home, and Prince Richard, at any rate, is convinced that the plan will work. "They're incredibly lazy animals," he says.

The GPS signal will also help guide the prince's hunting parties, along with the drivers and dogs, into areas where none of the marksmen will be tempted to shoot one of the animals. The prince himself has solemnly pledged never to kill a wisent.

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