70 years together with bisons

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On November 21, a jubilee celebration dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Central Bison nursery of the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve was held at the Vozdvizhenskoye Park-Hotel.
The story that the bison in the world almost died out, and how they were saved, today entered even in school textbooks. 2018 is a special year for our reserve. “We have been keeping the bison gene pool for 70 years” – this is not just a slogan. Huge work since the time of the legendary founders was not in vain. The Central bison nursery stepped over the 70th anniversary frontier with new forces, with new ideas, with confidence that the movement is carried out in the right direction.

Park Hotel “Vozdvizhenskoe” has become our reliable partner. The participants of the anniversary round table gathered under his hospitable home. On the morning of November 21, he began his work. At first glance, the anniversary round table looked modest. Only about 30 participants. Unfortunately, the representative of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation was unable to attend the anniversary meeting, he sent his congratulations to the director and the staff of the Central Bison nursery.

The seats in the hall were taken by the directors and representatives of the “bison” reserves – the national parks “Orlovskoye Polesye”, “Ugra”, “Meshchera”, the reserves Bryansky Les, Oksky and Prioksko-Terrasny, the Vologda state experimental hunting ground, employees of two nurseries – Prioksko-Terrasny and Oka reserves, as well as a number of specialists who are constantly working on the topic of bison conservation.

“Today, a true professional community of people engaged in the preservation and revival of bison in our country has gathered in Vozdvizhenskoye. Therefore, everyone speaks the same language, and there are no indifferent people in the hal ”, – the director of the Prioksko-Terrasny nature reserve Yevgeny Grigoriev said in his greeting. Indeed, from the very first minutes, communication at the round table was extremely active and constructive, interest in reports was lively, and the questions asked were of interest to everyone without exception.

The topics for discussion were the stories of colleagues about their affairs and problems, about the number of bison in groups, about the prospects for new deliveries of animals from the Central Bison nursery. The topic of managing bison populations — their state, migrations, genetic balance, number of reproductive individuals, and methods of regulating abundance — caused a lively discussion.

Director of the Orlovskoye Polesye National Park Oleg Prigoryanu told the audience about the pressing problems of the most numerous group of bison that lives in the territory of three reserves – the Orlovskoye Polesye and Ugra national parks and the Kaluzhskie zaseki reserve.

Victor Grishenkov, Director of the Ugra National Park, spoke about the important role of environmental education of the people in restoring the wild bison population. He stressed that the protected areas can not simply put their neighbors before the fact “bison will live here.” Local residents and workers of the hunting ground can and should become allies of protected areas, and this can be achieved by working and communicating with them and helping to understand each other.

In addition to important topics for all, the director of the Prioksko-Terrasny Zapovednik Yevgeny Grigoriev suggested that colleagues discuss the possibility of re-creating the Working Group on bison, which previously existed under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Russia.

Evgeny Grigoriev: “Now we don’t have such a working group. But we still desperately need the possibility of free discussion of common problems in the professional circle, in collegial development of important decisions, and in building a strategy. We believe that the bison working group should be recreated. It should be headed by a professional, an unquestionable person who will not be afraid to take responsibility. It is very important. And we must have a decent representation, including at the international level.”

Oleg Prigoryanu, Director of the Orlovskoye Polesye National Park: Five federal specially protected natural territories make up today the “bison belt” of Russia. There is a recognized opinion that in order for a free-living population to become self-sustaining, at least 500 reproductively efficient individuals are necessary.

This means that a single population must have at least 1,500 bison. In Russia, we now have all the livestock of bison in the population of “Orlovskoye Polesye” – “Kaluga Zaseki” – “Ugra” – about 650 animals. We have where to develop. The population of the Smolenskoe Poozerie National Park is very promising – there is a huge territory suitable for bison. Our northernmost population of the Vologda region, which exists successfully outside the reserve, is a unique experience. We have grown very professionally over the years. We understand what to do. Our professional community has only grown stronger with time, it has become a real nature conservation force. The question is in the coordination of efforts and their “certification”. And we are moving in this direction. A bison working group should be created, and one of the results of our meeting today will be an appeal to the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia with a proposal to create it. I sincerely congratulate my colleagues from the Central Bison Nursery on the Anniversary! When two years ago our Polish colleagues came to us, they were amazed at the condition of the bison nursery. They saw him in the 90s and believed that everything was doomed. They doubted the prospects of our free-living population. But they were convinced that the work was going on and that everything was going well for us. Today it is especially important that the Nursery took over the coordination of genetic analysis, veterinary work. This is very important and cool!

Victor Pererva, leading expert on the animal world, Meschera National Park: “Any animal population goes through a series of stages in its development — population growth, stabilization, land saturation, limit level, and then, with depletion of resources — self-regulation mechanisms are activated. During the period of the most intensive growth of the population, we can catch and resettle animals, the second – at this stage we must carry out a selection withdrawal – that is, the shooting of sick or reproductively unpromising animals. These two methods help to fix the optimal population size for a long enough period. Our bison population is now in a stage of intensive growth, close to the state of saturation of land. Its growth rates are such that, after 3-5 years, our largest group, the Orlovskoye Polesye-Kaluga Zaseki-Ugra, can reach a population of up to 2,000 individuals. But in my forecast, after such a rise, in 5-7 years, if the bison will not be able to settle on new lands, a natural decline in numbers will occur. ”

Ekaterina Tsibizova, head of the bison nursery of the Oka reserve: “We have only two bison nurseries in Russia – in Prioksko-Terrasny and in our Oka reserve. Our nursery is “younger” than the Central Bison nursery – next year it will also have an anniversary – 60 years! I am always glad to our cooperation, always glad to help my colleagues. There are problems and there will always be, in our business there will always be opponents and irreconcilable debaters. But you can always find a way to agree, to prove your case. And we will continue to work, because we love bison and our work very much. And without this love it’s impossible to work with bison! ”

The results of reports, discussions and exchange of views will be summarized in a resolution that can be found on our website. After the end of the round table, the participants went on a jubilee excursion to the Central Bison nursery.

In the evening, after this eventful day, everyone was waiting for a holiday – cordial greetings, awards, music, dancing and delicacies. All employees of the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve were invited. Of course, a special honor was shown to our veteran employees of the nursery, whose invaluable experience we try not to lose. Our friends came to the feast – bison adoptive parents, representatives of the administration of the Serpukhov district, our excellent volunteers, and many others – those whom the business of preserving bison does not leave indifferent.

We again and again congratulate all our colleagues, volunteers and friends with a great holiday! Our work is very important for the conservation of nature, and it will continue!