ARMENIS — Much to the delight of the residents of Armenis, a small village in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, 17 bison were released into a local acclimation enclosure Saturday. The operation, carried out by the WWF and Rewilding Europe, is part of an international effort to restore the emblematic animal in the region, more than 250 years after it went extinct.
The European bison, also known as wisents, were transported from Sweden, Germany, Italy and Belgium to their new home — 15 hectares of wild forests and mountains that should satisfy all their bison-needs. In October, when the animals are hopefully perfectly acclimated to their new wild lives, another 160-hectare rewilding area will open up to them.
The foundations hope the herd will grow to 500 heads by 2025. WWF-Romania said that locally-hired people have already been trained as bison rangers and bison guides.
Visitors may also have a chance to observe the herbivores during their acclimation. A bison conservation center is set to offer more insight on the animal and the local region, where bison have played a large part in the cultural heritage. In Romania, they appear on coats-of-arms, in legends, books, historical sites — and even on beer labels.
The Armenis bison rewilding operation is the largest in European history. It is part of a continent-wide movement aiming to reintroduce faunal assemblages in Europe, as well as reignite local communities and economies.
Photo: Neil McIntosh