Bison to be reintroduced to Kent at Blean Woods near Canterbury after £1 million lottery award

PUBLISHED: 12:52 04 September 2020

Bison will soon roam Blean woods near Canterbury Photo: Amanda Fegan

Bison will soon roam Blean woods near Canterbury Photo: Amanda Fegan

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Led by Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust, the project will take place in Blean Woods near Canterbury. The ‘Wilder Blean’ project aims to restore the ecosystem of the area’s renowned ancient woodlands.

The European bison is the continent’s largest land mammal and adult males can weigh as much as a tonne. The species is known as an ‘ecosystem engineer’ because of its ability to create and improve habitats for other species.

Despite their size, bison are peaceful animals. Their ability to fell trees by rubbing up against them, and eating the bark, creates space for a wide range of other species to thrive. No other species can perform this job in quite the same way.

The bison will be accompanied by other grazing animals to create the greatest plant and animal biodiversity possible; forging stronger habitats through natural processes that will withstand the current environmental crisis and species decline, and in the long run, reverse it.

The project has been made possible by an award of £1,125,000 from the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund.

Kent Wildlife Trust owns several woodlands in the Blean area, covering a total of almost 2,500 acres – about the size of 1,000 football pitches. This makes it one of the largest areas of surviving ancient woodland in England. The trust’s long-standing goal is to protect wildlife and restore the natural habitats on which it depends.

Kent Wildlife Trust will be responsible for the overall management of the project, including the installation and maintenance of infrastructure, such as fencing for the trial area.

Wildwood Trust is a leading native species conservation charity, whose native species animal park is situated next to the woodland where the project will take place. The Wildwood Trust team are renowned experts in native species conservation and animal husbandry. They will be looking after the animals daily and ensuring their welfare.

The project will involve extensive consultation and engagement with local residents, landowners, and interest groups who know and love the area.

Local people will have the opportunity to become involved in the innovative project and help return the land to a functioning ecosystem, brimming with life.

Paul Hadaway, Director of Conservation at Kent Wildlife Trust said: “This award means we can now take an important step towards reversing the terrifying rate of species loss in the UK.

“The Wilder Blean project will prove that a wilder, nature-based solution is the right one to tackle the climate and nature crisis we now face. Using missing keystone species such as bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape.”

Find out more

Kent Wildlife Trust works closely with local communities, landowners and partners to protect and improve habitats in the countryside, coast and town for the benefit of the wildlife and people of Kent. Learn more about the project at: kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/wilderblean.

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