90th anniversary of reintroduction of European bison to Polish forest

New publications and scientific conferences are part of the activities planned by the Białowieża National Park in 2019 to mark the 90th anniversary of the reintroduction of European bison to the Białowieża Forest, in northeastern Poland.

The Białowieża National Park (BPN) is the oldest Polish national park. The Białowieża Forest home to the world's largest herd of European bison - their number exceeds 500. The bison are the largest European land mammals and are a protected species.

The anniversary of the reintroduction of bison refers to the arrival of the first bison - from the Berlin Zoo to a special farm in the Białowieża Forest on September 19, 1929 - which gave rise to the next.

European bison (Bison bonasus) survived in the wild until the beginning of the 20th century, only in the Białowieża Forest and in the Caucasus. As a result of World War I activities in the Białowieża Forest, all of the lowlands bison living in the wild were killed. In May 1923, at the International Conservation of Nature Congress in Paris, the restitution programme for the bison in the Białowieża Forest was presented, in the same year which the International Society for the Protection of Bison was founded.

According to the publication "National Parks and Nature Reserves", the period 1920-28 was the only time when there were no bison in the Białowieża Forest – there was a record number of 1,800 bison living there in the 19th century.

In the post-war period, 620 bison were transported to other breeding centers in the country and abroad from the Bison Breeding Center in Białowieża. Currently, according to data from the Bison Pedigree Book, these animals now live in 30 countries in Europe, as well as in Brazil and Canada.

Despite the fact that the bison were saved from extermination after the First World War, they still remain an endangered species. Environmental changes, as well as human activities have contributed to an observed increase in the risk of the emergence and reappearance of pathogens which are harmful to the bison.