UK's first ever bison rangers chosen from over 1,000 applicants across the world

·3-min read

The UK's first ever bison rangers have been picked out of more than 1,000 applicants from across the world.

A close-knit herd of four European bison will live in Blean Woods near Canterbury in a bid to restore the habitat.

Newly appointed bison rangers Tom Gibbs and Donovan Wright have begun work in what is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in the country before the huge mammals arrive in 2022.

Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust created the bison ranger roles as part of a major conservation project to restore the ecosystem of the area's ancient woodlands through nature-based solutions.

Mr Gibbs, who previously worked as a conservation officer for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said he was thrilled to have been chosen for the "once in a lifetime opportunity".

He added: "The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world.

"Unfortunately, sometimes traditional conservation practices haven't been able to halt these losses, so wilding and using species like bison offer a sustainable approach where nature can take the lead and restore degraded ecosystems and lost species.

"This, in turn, creates a healthier environment that provides us all with water, food and air, while helping us reconnect with these wild and natural landscapes."

Meanwhile, Mr Wright, who has more than 20 years of experience conducting walking safaris and drives in some of Africa's most prestigious reserves, says he can't wait to see bison restoring woodlands across the UK.

He said: "As well as dealing with the 'Big 5' - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo, I have experience working in some extremely remote locations and thinking on my feet.

"I can't wait to use these skills to help visitors to the Blean experience wild European bison on foot in the UK and show them how they restore nature and increase biodiversity, while working towards the ultimate goal of seeing bison restoring woodlands across the UK."

Experts say no other species can perform the job of engineering the habitat in the same way as bison. This is despite their size - with adult males weighing up to a tonne.

The animals can selectively fell trees and cause others to die slowly by rubbing up against them and eating the bark.

More space and light is then created in the woods which provides deadwood that can help other plants and animals.

Bison also create patches of bare earth by dust bathing, providing habitat for insects and lizards.

In order to display their natural behaviour and have the greatest positive effect on the environment, the bison must be kept in as wild a state as possible, according to experts.

The new rangers will be responsible for compliance licences, health checks, safety, maintaining infrastructures such as gates and fences around the project, as well as risk assessment and planning and monitoring visitor interactions with the bison.

The project was made possible thanks to funding of £1,575,000 raised by players of People's Postcode Lottery.

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