The European Bison is the largest herbivore in Europe and was historically distributed through Western, Central and South Eastern Europe. European bison are browsers eating fresh shoots, leaves, herbs, ferns and shrubs. Their habitat is deciduous and mixed forests, with some meadow grassland.
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Following the First World War (1914-18) and the Russian Revolution of 1917 heavy poaching decimated the already diminished populations of this species. The last wild European bison was shot in 1927. Fortunately a small number of bison (some 54 individuals) survived in European zoological gardens. Captive breeding programmes were set up to save the species from total extinction. These programmes have been successful and the bison has now been reintroduced to the wilds of Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Slovakia.
In 2014 The Aspinall Foundation, in co-operation with the Highland Wildlife Park and Fota Zoo, sent 6 females to the Vanatori Neamt National Park in Romania as a further extension of this re-introduction programme. In spring 2016 The Aspinall Foundation released 5 more bison into the Valdeserrillas nature reserve in Spain.
The survival of the European bison is a great conservation success proving animals can be saved from the brink of extinction using captive breeding programmes and immense effort and planning.