Wilding has its moment! - Martha Rolison of Simon Langton Girls Grammar School
Surprise as the first Bison calf is born in the UK for 1000 years.
‘She’s a little ball of energy’ says Donovan Wright, and ‘she’s doing so so well’. He is referring to an unexpected surprise for the Wildwood rangers when the first bison calf born in the UK for over 1000 years entered the West Blean and Thornden woodlands near Canterbury, Kent. This little ‘ecosystem engineer’ came bounding into the world in October 2022 and whilst this was surprising for the Wildwood team, it is not unusual as female bison regularly ‘hide their pregnancies’ says Stan Smith, a wildlife landscape manager, as a ‘defence mechanism against predators’.
This project emerged to alter the devastating loss of biodiversity in habitats where species are heading towards extinction. Wild bison were reintroduced back to the UK in July 2022 using a process called ‘Wilding’. Using nature as a solution to increase diversity of wildlife instead of other conservation techniques that use mostly human management. However, it has the same principles to a problem of the same magnitude; Protecting endangered species and their habitats. Bison have an invaluable quality on the ecosystem as they roam the woodlands, their huge size crafts paths through otherwise dense places of vegetation that receive little sunlight which enables smaller species of plants to grow in their new microhabitat.
Wildwood rangers didn’t foresee a calf being born so soon after the reintroduction of the species however, it not only allows the rangers to gather valuable research on the species but is the first of its generation to grow up freely in the wild away from captivity, and this is what makes the project of wilding so ground-breaking. The reason why the Wildwood ranger called her a ‘little ball of energy,’ was that she mimics her aunties and mothers’ behaviours like rolling in the dust.
The value of this project doesn’t just extend to the ecosystem but is an opportunity for a boost in wellbeing for the local community who can experience new footpaths through the woods with raised viewing points and, a small, but still a chance of seeing the majestic creatures. News travels fast, as the American actor Leonardo DiCaprio hailed the project as letting the ‘animals’ natural behaviour to nourish the commercial pine forest into natural woodland’. This project cost £1.1 million which sounds economically reasonable when compared to other conservation projects, some that can cost up to £10 million in protecting only one species. More research is required but early signs show that successful wilding of endangered animals can be done anywhere, costing less than other conservation projects. In the US over 4.6 million acres of land, in 12 states, 19 Bison herds are maintained. There the Department of Interior bison managers work together with Native American groups, zoos and the government to sustain the population for future years to come. Showing that you can turnaround a species that’s near to extinction. So, could wilding be the future for success in our ecosystem?