Love The European Bison
This 9-year-old bull is huge. A big vegetarian, he loves his new-found freedom out in the forest like he always dreamed. He was one of the many who was born in captivity and released to the wild. He finds it amazing that this has happened. Humans had hunted his kind nearly to extinction. And now humans are helping them to come back. He knows there is still a long way to go until his species is safe, but for now, he will make do with the forest he has and hope for more to come soon so he can meet the other herds.
The European bison, also known as the wisent is the largest land mammal in Europe and one of only two species of bison left in the world, the other being the American bison. These great beasts weigh a lot, with very large bulls weighing up to 1,000 kg. It became extinct in the wild in the early 20th century, but, due to extensive conservation, has been brought back and steadily moving further away from extinction. Bison are herd animals, living in groups of between 8-13. These are not family groups and different herds often come together and exchange members. The herds are matriarchal which means they are led by females. The cows decide where the herds will move to graze, the bulls who are larger stay on the outside of the group and are used as protection.
Bison are incredibly important for their ecosystems. They put away a whopping 32kg of food per day, a diet of grass, bark, and seedlings, which shapes the landscape. They create feeding paths for other animals and open up areas in forests. By eating bark and creating clearings in forests the bison are considered ‘firefighters’, helping to prevent the spread of fires. They are also incredibly important for seed dispersal, scattering over 200 species of plants to increase biodiversity.
Bulls become sexually mature at the age of 3 but are not allowed to mate until they are 6 or 7 because of the older and stronger bulls. Females will give birth to one calf every two years which they will do for the rest of their life. Males on the other hand become sexually inactive when they reach the age of 12. The cow gives birth to a very heavy baby, weighing between 25-30kg. She will feed it nourishing milk for about a year before it is old enough to graze for itself.
Due to intense hunting and habitat degradation, European bison numbers have plummeted. By the early 20th century they could only be found in a few pockets. Finally, the last wild bison of the lowland subspecies was shot in the Białowieża Forest in 1921, with the Carpathian bison already being hunted to extinction in the mid-1800s. The lowland species was however, saved. It was in captivity and, through an incredible effort of conservation, began an incredibly successful reintroduction programme. In late 2020, the European bison changed classification from vulnerable to near threatened. They are still not entirely out of the woods though. Many habitats they have been reintroduced to are not optimal, herds are isolated from each other, and only 8 of the 47 herds are large enough to be genetically viable longterm.
HOW TO HELP
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while travelling, the public will be able to meet individual animals.
With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save all endangered animals.
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtags #LoveTheLast to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe.
To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.wwf.sg/SOURCES