LOOK: Baby European Bison Born at Fota Island Wildlife Park

By Anna O'Donoghue

Fota Wildlife Park today announced the birth of a female baby European bison, (Bison bonasus), who was born on January 4 to mother Erika and father Hyssop.

The news is a result of ongoing efforts to help re-grow the species population.

17-year-old Erika is one of the founding members of the Fota herd, she originally came from the Skansen Foundation Zoo in Stockholm and this new calf is her 13th birth.

The European bison, also known as the ‘wisent’ is a distinctive looking animal with a thickset body, short neck and a visible hump at the shoulder. As the largest land mammal in Europe, a big bull can weigh up to 1,000 kilos and can reach a height of six feet.

Erica has over 50 grandchildren in various zoological institutions across Europe, all of them participating in the coordinated European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).

Her father is the dominant bull of the herd, Hyssop, who came to Fota from Port Lympne Reserve (UK) five years ago. Classified Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the European bison is the largest land-mammal species in Europe.

“It’s very exciting for us to welcome a new female calf to the herd, especially as the European bison was extinct in the wild but has since undergone a population regrowth thanks to the efforts and coordinated initiatives from zoological institutions, including Fota,” Lead Ranger, Aidan Rafferty said.

“The species has been re-introduced from captive populations back to their native habitats in Eastern Europe.

It is amazing to see the conservation work that Fota Wildlife Park does, come to life, literally, in the wilds of the Carpathian Mountains as the two females from Fota plus their offspring have become part of this free-roaming herd

Last month, Park Director Sean McKeown and Mr Rafferty visited Vanatori Neamt Nature Park in Romania to see how well two female bison from the Fota herd were thriving since they were sent there as part of a re-introduction programme in 2014.

Production company Red Pepper filmed this for Virgin Media Television as part of a four-part documentary series about Fota Wildlife Park which is coming soon to Virgin Media One.

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