In 2003, the population of the European bison stood at just 1,800 individuals, leading scientists at the International Union for Conservation and Nature to classify the animal as “vulnerable.” This led to a number of conservation initiatives, including the 5-year LIFE Bison project, which started in 2016 and is set to end March 30, 2021.
The mission of this project was to create a viable population of bison in Romania that would breed in the wild in order to help promote biodiversity. Thanks to initiatives like this, we can now report that the population of European bison has swelled to more than 6,200, leading scientists to change their classification from “vulnerable” to “almost threatened.”
According to Marina Drugă, the LIFE Bison project manager in Romania, the birth of bison calves in the wild and the support they’re getting from local communities are “good signs that bison belong to these ancestral lands.”
Overhunting decimated bison populations before the 20th century, with the only bison remaining being held in captivity during the early 20th century. Wild reintroduction efforts began in the mid-1950s, with Russia, Poland, and Belarus now having the largest populations of European bison.