June 24, 2016

French bulls in Kraansvlak herd

On June 23rd, the two French bulls that arrived at Kraansvlak in May, have been released from their adjustment area. Together with the current group of bison, these subadult bulls aged 2 and 3 will form a herd of 16 animals. After the translocation of two bulls from Kraansvlak to Spain last August, and the move of eight animals to Maashorst in March, this is the next important step for the bison project. 

In order to keep the bison herd in Kraansvlak genetically and socially healthy, every now and then it is necessary to translocate animals. In 2015 a milestone was achieved with the successful move of two bulls born in Kraansvlak. Since they are related to most of the herd members, it was time to relocate them. In nature there is a point in time at which bulls wander off, and search for other unrelated female companion. Here, we have to assist them in the process. Due to this translocation, we in our turn could contribute to the success of other (starting) bison projects, like we did years ago when getting animals from Poland. 

Earlier this year, a next important step followed for bison in the Netherlands. Eight of our animals -all born in Kraansvlak- moved to the Maashorst nature reserve, in the Province of Brabant. With this, the second area in which bison roam in Dutch nature started. Meanwhile, also a project at the Veluwe started with bison coming from Germany. Currently 30 bison are roaming around in Dutch nature areas. 

Any translocation of bison has to be prepared well. Animals have to be checked for specific diseases before they can be transported. And sometimes treatment takes place in order to prevent that imported animals take diseases to their new environment, or to prevent newcoming animals get infected with something that the already present animals are perfectly capable to deal with. During the past translocations, our veterinary specialist Mark Hoyer has been quite busy with arranging all preparations. In addition, we are very grateful to our partner the University of Montpellier. 

With bison being wild animals and our herd not being used to human handling like providing supplemental feeding, it is key for the animals and project members to work as carefully as possible when animals are about to be transported. For this purpose, a corral has been built to foreign standards, but specifically designed by PWN to fit our wishes and situation perfectly. The corral has clearly shown his high value the past months. The animals could be prepared for transport with the least stress and risk as possible for the bison as well as our team. Also for incoming animals the corral is a great first step towards their new future. The French bulls have been monitored here on a daily basis by the very knowledgable PWN team of rangers. On the 23rd of June the big moment was there to set the bulls free to go towards their new companions. The Dutch tv show NH Leeft was present and made a nice video (from minute 7:10) of the first steps of the bulls into their new home. Within a day the bulls found their way into the herd. The excellent sense of smell of these animals will surely have played a role in finding each other so quickly in the 330 hectares hilly dune landscape. 

With the two new arrivals, project partners ARK Nature and PWN hope the bulls will go off into a great longlasting future in Kraansvlak. During their first year in our dune area we will monitor them extra carefully as a transition into a new environment turns out to be not always an easy one for bison. Also in Kraansvlak we unfortunately encountered this. The previous experiences have of course been taken into account in the preparations to welcome the bulls. Besides the special attention, the herd will be continued to be monitored on a very regular base by rangers and researchers. With a healthy dose of excitement we look forward to the calving season of next year to see if the integration process has been fulfilled to the highest success rate.