This fluffy baby bison isn’t just adorable – it’s also an asset in the United Kingdom’s plan to fight climate change.
The baby bison is the first born in the wild in the United Kingdom in thousands of years, according to a news release from Kent Wildlife Trust. Kent and a second charity, Wildwood Trust, are leading a five-year project to reintroduce European bison into the UK.
Three female bison were released into West Blean and Thornden Woods, Kent, in July 2022, says Kent. The charities hope that the animals will function as “ecosystem engineers,” helping to restore their own natural habitats, increase biodiversity, and combat climate change. Bison engage in certain behavior, like felling trees, for instance, that will reduce the flood risk in the forests, according to Kent.
“Bison rangers” working on the project discovered the new addition to the herd in September, says the news release. But they chose not to announce the birth until October to ensure the baby was healthy and also out of respect for the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The birth was a welcome surprise for the rangers, who did not know that one of the female bison was pregnant when she was released into the wild.
“It is difficult to detect pregnancy in bison as they naturally conceal being in calf to avoid being hunted by predators,” said bison ranger Tom Gibbs. And pregnant bison are often able to travel without any negative impact to their health, he added.
“We always hoped that the bison would breed, but it is fair to say we were not anticipating it quite so soon.”
He added that the team of rangers will closely monitor the health of mother and calf while remaining “as hands-off as possible.”
The calf is already learning bison behavior from the rest of the herd, taking dust baths and playing in the rain, according to the charity.
The UK isn’t the first country to attempt to reintroduce European bison. After skating on the brink of extinction in the 1920s, the species has also been reintroduced in Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia.
The British herd will be joined by a male bison from Germany soon, according to Kent – so more bouncing babies may be on the way.