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European Bison in the Rothaargebirge

Project data

Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr. Ursula Siebert
Scientific work: Dipl.-Biol. Coralie Herbst
Project term: 10/01/2013-09/30/2015
Sponsorship: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN)
Association of the Supporters of Wisent-Welt Wittgenstein (Trägerverein Wisent-Welt Wittgenstein e.V.)

Project description


The European bison (Bison bonasus), the largest terrestrial mammal in Europe, was historically distributed almost throughout all Europe. Overharvesting and increasing habitat loss since human settlement led to a continuous reduction of the European bison and it got nearly extinct in the early 20th century. Several projects mostly in East Europe tried to establish small populations of the European bison. There has never been a serious attempt to reintroduce a population of free ranging bison in Western Europe. The main goal of this E+E project, supported by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), is to sustainably reintroduce the European bison into the cultural landscape. An core area of more than 4.300 ha in the “Rothaargebirge” in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany was found suitable for a free-ranging herd of 20–25 European bison.

An initial captivity phase of three years was used to conduct first surveys on possible effects of the bison on the environment and economy as well as implementing a basic strategy for management. Subsequently the permission to release a starting population of 8 bison was given in October 2012 and on Spring 2013 the bison were released. Ever since the bison are radio-tracked (GPS), and their spatial use and the ecological impact on their environment is monitored. This project is singular in its complex interplay from politicians, private landowner, conservationists and scientist and is a milestone in conservation efforts for this species and can be taken exemplary for further reintroduction projects elsewhere.



Abschlußbericht in BfN-Skripten 441



Wisent (Bison bonasus) Foto Wisent-Welt- Wittgenstein

Contact person

Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research

Bischofsholer Damm 15

30173 Hannover


Dipl. -Biol. Coralie Herbst

Tel.: +49 511 856-7564

E-Mail schreiben


Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Wildlife Research
Bischofsholer Damm 15
30173 Hannover
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