Woolly Bulldozers

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A female bison gave birth to a healthy baby calf in the English county of Kent in September, the first time in 6,000 years the large animal was born in the wild in the country, the Washington Post reported.

The birth was a major and pleasant surprise for bison rangers at the Kent Wildlife Trust, a UK-based conservation charity.

“It was such a magical moment, and so iconic (for) what it represents for conservation and wilding in this country,” said ranger Tom Gibbs, who had not known that the mother – named Female 2 – was pregnant. “I saw this little face pop out from behind mom … I wanted to scream it from the rooftops.”

He explained that bison naturally hide signs of pregnancy to stave off predators, which led to the female wandering off into the forest to give birth.

Her temporary disappearance gave the rangers a scare, Gibbs noted.

The Kent Wildlife Trust and other conservation charities are taking part in the Wilder Blean project, which seeks to reintroduce the grazing mammals to Kent’s West Blean and Thornden Woods as a way to address climate and biodiversity crises.

European bison were driven to near extinction in the early 20th century because of excessive hunting. Currently, all 9,000 bison living on the continent are descended from only 12 zoo animals.

The project introduced three females in the area which they hope will help to restore their own natural habitats, increase biodiversity, and combat climate change.

Scientists have dubbed bison as “ecosystem engineers” because their fur can debark trees, their large bodies can create pathways through the dense forest and their nutrient-rich manure helps other species flourish.

This is particularly important in the UK, one of the most nature-depleted nations in the world.

“They are quite big and robust, so they can really shape and engineer the landscape around them,” said Gibbs. “Everything they do has this positive impact.”

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