Wildlife ranger Donovan Wright prepares to work with a long-awaited wild bison that will return to the UK’s ancient Kent forests.
He’s one of the newest guards hired to welcome the four bison that will arrive next spring As part of a conservation project to rebuild Blean Woods near Canterbury, England.
“We’re putting up a fence. We’re putting up a bullpen. We’re building puddles,” Wright said. as it happens Host Carol Ove.
“Aside from taking care of the forest, we will also help save an animal that is nearly extinct.”
The European four bison will be the first to roam the UK after being near extinction nearly a century ago. Most of these bison died from habitat degradation, fragmentation, logging, unlimited hunting and poaching.
The Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust have teamed up to reintroduce bison and increase biodiversity.
Wright views the bison as an “environmental engineer” with a “biodiversity jet fuel”.
Large terrestrial animals can naturally drop trees by rubbing them and feeding off the bark. They can open a canopy inside a pine forest and allow light to penetrate into the ground – which can bring life back to the ecosystem.
“If you look at the Blean Woods as they are today,” he said, “we have this beautiful, dense canopy on top of the woods. Unfortunately, at the bottom, not much happens.”
“That’s why the bison is so important…by opening up that canopy, they’re creating this rich mosaic of habitat, and that’s where you get such great diversity and abundance in the species to come.”
It’s an incredible story.Donovan Wright, Wildlife Ranger
Even as bison roam the woods, Wright says they can create pores through the dense bushes for different types of insects and wildflowers. Dead trees can also become homes for woodpeckers, bats, and fungi.
“Sometimes they are referred to as an umbrella species because they really protect the quality of life for other species within the ecosystem,” the bison keeper said. “Just like an umbrella that protects you from the rain.”
This will be the first time that Wright has taken care of a bison in over 20 years as a ranger. The closest animal he worked with was the Cape buffalo. In South Africa, he tended to elephants, rhinos and other large animals.
Lately, he’s been training alongside Assistant Guard Tom Gibbs For two weeks in the Netherlands I witnessed a European bison grazing in nature reserves first-hand.
Six thousand years ago, the steppe bison roamed freely throughout the United Kingdom until Hunting and changes in the Earth’s habitat led to extinction around the world. The European bison is a descendant of this species and recently went from “vulnerable” to “near threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Red List of Threatened Species.
Close to their extinction, Wright said, “All the European bison we have today are descended from 12 individuals.” Polish conservatives helped prevent By grazing the remaining bison kept in zoos in the 1920s. “It’s unbelievable, a great story.”
Keepers will constantly monitor genetically fragile species to help them grow into a strong herd.
As for the old Kent forests, he believes the European bison is the key to revitalization.
“We’ve tried it the traditional way, you know, with heavy machinery,” Wright said. “Unfortunately, human management alone isn’t enough to create the kinds of habitats we need to survive.”
“Give nature the freedom and space to heal itself. It has a wonderful healing power.”
Written by Mahik Mazhar. Interview produced by Abby Pliner.