Hand in hand for the return of the bison

Engagement in the Caucasus

    © WWF


    Rewilding Europe supports the Berlin Zoological Gardens and WWF Germany in the reintroduction of European bison in Shahdag National Park in Azerbaijan. When the last European bison was shot in the Caucasus in 1927, the European bison was considered extinct in its natural habitat. Thanks to the long-term commitment of a large number of nature and species conservation organizations and the implementation of targeted conservation measures, more than 6,200 bison are now roaming the landscapes of the European continent again.

    We spoke to Sophie Monsarrat, Rewilding Manager at Rewilding Europe.

    What does „rewilding“ mean?

    S.M.: Rewilding is a visionary approach to conservation that trusts in nature’s resilience, strength and own ways. It is about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. By removing barriers like dykes and dams, reducing active wildlife management, and fostering natural forest regeneration, rewilding empowers nature to heal itself.

    How does Rewilding Europe contribute to safeguarding biodiversity in Europe?

    S.M.: Rewilding Europe actively contributes to safeguarding biodiversity by taking tangible actions on the ground in our showcasing rewilding landscapes. Through practices such as removing barriers like dykes and dams, reducing active wildlife management, and promoting natural regeneration, rewilding creates the ideal conditions for a variety of species to thrive. By providing space and opportunities for wildlife to flourish, rewilding plays a crucial role in preserving and promoting a rich tapestry of life, ultimately contributing to the overall health and resilience of ecosystems.

    In addition to creating the right conditions for wildlife comeback to happen naturally, Rewilding Europe takes active measures such as reintroductions of keystone species and population reinforcements. Supporting wildlife comeback is one of the core objectives of Rewilding Europe’s mission. The restoration of lost species, enhancement of populations, and reintroduction of key species help rebuild ecosystems that have faced declines in biodiversity. Additionally, we support other initiatives through various tools, including the European Wildlife Comeback Fund.

    What does the help for the European bison in the Caucasus actually look like?

    S.M.: With the backing of Rewilding Europe’s European Wildlife Comeback Fund the initiative to revive a self-sustaining population of European bison in Azerbaijan has gained momentum. The grant facilitated the translocation of ten European bison from Germany to Shahdag National Park, contributing to the ongoing recovery of the species in the Caucasus region. The grant covered various aspects, including transportation, veterinary services, and educational outreach.

    Why is this support so important right now?

    S.M.: The support provided by Rewilding Europe's European Wildlife Comeback Fund for the reintroduction of European bison in Azerbaijan is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it contributes to the ongoing recovery of the European bison population, a species that historically faced near-extinction in its natural habitat. The current efforts help bridge the gap in the Caucasus region, where the last wild bison in the area was shot in 1927.

    Secondly, the initiative aligns with broader conservation goals, aiming to establish a viable, self-sustaining population of at least 100 animals in Shahdag National Park. This is particularly significant in addressing the limited genetic diversity of the European bison, a challenge resulting from its near-extinction. The support facilitates the creation of a founder population that can grow independently, contributing to the genetic and demographic health of the species.

    Moreover, the funding ensures the successful acclimatization and release of the bison, setting the stage for positive ecological impacts in the region. Not only does it enhance biodiversity, it also fosters economic benefits for local communities through growing tourism associated with the park's increasing bison population.

    More about Rewilding Europe:

    Founded in 2011, Rewilding Europe has quickly established itself as an international initiative, operating at the frontline of European rewilding. From the Ukrainian Danube Delta in the east to the Greater Côa Valley in Portugal in the west, we are currently rewilding ten large landscapes across Europe, with the aim of expanding this to 15 by 2030. It is our vision that wild nature is valued and treated as an essential element of a prosperous and healthy society with far more space provided for wildlife and natural processes. Our mission is to demonstrate the benefits of wilder nature through the rewilding of diverse European landscapes, inspiring and enabling others to engage in rewilding by providing tools and practical expertise. Our goal is to see rewilding practised at scale right across the continent, with measurable benefits to nature and people. By inspiring, supporting and collaborating with various partners, from rewilding initiatives and NGOs to philanthropic organisations and businesses, Rewilding Europe seeks to create a Europe richer in nature, resilient to climate change, and supported by flourishing, nature-based economies: www.rewildingeurope.com

    You can find more information about the bison here:

    Conservation project European Bison

    Further information on the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration can be found here:

    Generation Restauration

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