Largest Bison reintroduction ever in Western Europe

Largest Bison reintroduction ever in Western Europe

Valdeserrillas, 29 April 2016 – 12 European bison have been released into Valdeserrillas nature reserve, Spain, this week in the largest bison reintroduction ever in Western Europe. True Nature Foundation collaborated with the European Bison breeding programme of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).

The first seven bison, from Fota Wildlife Park, Ireland, arrived earlier this week. Another five European Bison from Howletts Wild Animal Park and Port Lympne Reserve, United Kingdom, have joined the herd today. Both parks work in conjunction with the Aspinall Foundation who also provisioned the transport of the UK animals to Spain.

The release of the European Bison, or Wisent, as they are known in Europe, is part of an ambitious project to restore the once seriously endangered large herbivore to its former ecological range.

European bison were driven to extinction in the wild in the early twentieth century as the result of habitat destruction and severe hunting. Through the captive breeding of the species in European zoos and a series of reintroduction projects, the population has gradually begun to increase and the IUCN subsequently reclassified European bison as Vulnerable, rather than Endangered.

The fall and rise of the European Bison is a rare success story in conservation. Douglas M Richardson, EAZA’s European Bison EEP coordinator, deems it inappropriate to consider the species as saved, “ There are whole swathes of the European continent that were once the realm of the Bison and these latest exports from key members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s European Bison breeding programme, the European Bison EEP, are a step towards repopulating the western limit of the species’ historical range.

Valdeserrillas is an exciting nature restoration, or rewilding, project. The area is about to receive a UNESCO status and will expand in this and coming years.


Release of European bison in Valdeserrilas Reserve, Spain (Photo: Guido Beauchez)


True Nature Foundation will bring in wild horses and Aurochs backbreds in the near future, with the three species complementing each other in their grazing and browsing activities.

Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation said: “ We are delighted to be part of this rewilding initiative in Spain. This is what real conservation is all about. Successfully breeding vulnerable and endangered animals in captivity is of no use, unless those animals can eventually be returned to the wild – where they belong.”

Tony King, The Aspinall Foundation added: “ The bison is a majestic symbol of Europe’s wilderness; we are delighted that The Aspinall Foundation is helping bring it back to the Valdeserrillas Reserve. We will be following the bison closely as they discover their new-found freedom.”

Release of European bison in Valdeserrilas Reserve, Spain (Photo: Guido Beauchez)


Next year True Nature Foundation will support the release of more Wisent into Valdeserrillas and other areas in Spain and Europe. Henri Kerkdijk-Otten, chairman of True Nature Foundation, is optimistic about the future “ We hope it will mark the start of a fruitful, and long-lasting, cooperation between all the organizations involved in the breeding of the European bison, with us all working towards the common goal of reinstating European ecosystems to their original and complete state ”.



Further Information

True Nature Foundation
De Geerkamp 1052
6545HC Nijmegen

phone: 0031 6 36180142


About True Nature Foundation

True Nature Foundation’s primary aim is to restore and protect wilderness areas and ecological processes by reintroducing lost species. They are a Pan-European conservation institution registered in The Netherlands. The focus of the organisation is ecological restoration and development of protected areas, including practical management measures for biodiversity conservation, and the economic development of rural communities.

For more information please visit

About Aspinall Foundation

The Aspinall Foundation celebrated 30 years of animal conservation in 2014. Since it was founded in April 1984, the charity has become world-leaders in animal conservation; helping to protect a wide range of critically endangered species internationally, including western lowland gorillas and black rhino, and has pioneered ground-breaking reintroduction projects. The Aspinall Foundation manages conservation projects in Congo, Gabon, Indonesia and Madagascar, as well as providing financial support to various partner projects around the world. The conservation charity’s important work helps prevent some of the most endangered species on the planet from becoming extinct.

For more information please visit

About Howletts Wild Animal Park and Port Lympne Reserve

Howletts Wild Animal Park and Port Lympne Reserve work with The Aspinall Foundation, a world leading conservation charity. The parks, in Kent are two of the County’s most popular visitor attractions. Profits from the parks in Kent and accommodation at Port Lympne Reserve go towards helping The Aspinall Foundation’s efforts to save rare and endangered species, both in the UK and overseas.

Howletts Wild Animal Park and Port Lympne Reserve in Kent, working in conjunction with The Aspinall Foundation, are some of the most successful breeders of captive endangered animals in the world. With unrivalled achievements in husbandry, the conservation charity boasts 135 gorilla births, 33 black rhino, 123 clouded leopards, 33 Javan gibbons, 104 Javan langur and 20 African elephants.

About Fota Wildlife Park

Fota Wildlife Park is a joint project between the Zoological Society of Ireland and University College Cork (UCC). Fota is a non-profit organisation, limited by guarantee, and is also a registered charity. Fota Wildlife Park cares for several different animal species in danger of extinction. Through long-established Breeding programmes, which are run cooperatively with other institutions around the world, the Park is helping restore populations of some species while protecting the very survival of others.

For more information please visit

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