Biodiversity Conservation and Protected Areas Coordinator
Kyiv Ecology & Culture Centre, str. Raidujna, 31-48, Kyiv, Ukraine 02218
“It is true, that the north is inhabited by wisents. They are fat, tameless and extremely fierce. Wisents hate humanity, because many of them (people) hunt them for food. They have citreous fur. In front they have spreading exhibitive horns, helpful in fights and everyday life.” «About Sarmathia, European region», Shedel G., XV century.
«How, do we have wisents remained? Why nothing is heard, that’s a real value…» Reply of a Ukraine zoologist on the data of dramatic decrease of bison livestock on the territory of Ukraine.
Dear reader! Coalition of environmental organizations of Ukraine, Ukrainian Theriological School, supported by the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Ukraine, have proclaimed year 2009 the year of the wisent. Why wisent? This article gives the answer. There is no doubt that you have heard about European bison and could imagine the appearance of this magnificent, precious animal, real lord of ancient European forests. The bison images could be seen on the plenty of emblems, trade marks and other symbols. Bison is the only representative of the wild bulls which has been living on the territory of Europe since the Pliocene age.
Wisents gather in herds reaching amount of dozens of heads
However, this unique animal was already more than once under threat of extinction. In 1927 wisents completely disappeared in nature, and only 52 specimens were saved in different zoos. Thanks to enormous efforts, this population of wisents was successfully restored and returned to the former habitats. According to its vulnerability, wisent is protected by the International Red Book, European Red List, Bern Convention (Appendix III), Red Book of Ukraine, and also by Red Books and Lists of neighboring countries: Russia, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania. On January 2007 there were 730 wisents in Belarus, 380 individuals in Russia (350 Caucasian European bisons which have admixtures of American bison’s blood are not taken into account), and near 900 individuals in Poland.
However, in some other countries European bison destiny is quite different. In particular, Bulgarian population is almost completely exterminated. We can see abrupt decline of Ukrainian bisons population quantity: 685 individuals in 1992, in 1995 there were 659 heads, in 2000 – 405 heads, in 2004 – 325 heads, in 2005 – 303 heads. By the state on 2007 there were already less than 255 bisons in Ukraine – bison’s quantity has fallen down in three times for the last 15 years. So, Ukrainian bison is steadily moving to its extinction. Could it be staved off?
In historical time bison was the ordinary species of Ukraine and inhabited greater part of its territory to the coasts of Black and Azov Sea, including the Crimean peninsula. History of this animal in Ukraine, like in Europe on the whole, is a story of permanent persecution, which had to lead to the tragic final. In ancient Russian chronicles bisons are not mentioned, while references about another wild bull – aurochs – are numerous. However, such situation is explained by scientists in the way that these two bulls simply were not distinguished by ancient chroniclers. In spite of deep respect wisent and aurochs force evoked, they were regarded entirely as hunting animal. Simply saying, they were a source of meet and hunting entertainment. It is known that huge amount of these animals were killed for troops food supply. For example, lots of wisent bulk were provided for Lithuanian-Polish forces intending to Gruenwald battle in 1410 year.
Gradually bison became rare species and a beast exclusively for elite hunting. So, in the Belarusian medieval cities bison’s remains happen mainly on castle territories.
It is considered that two subspecieses lived on the territory of Ukraine: bialowezian lowland form and mountain Carpathian form. As for bialowezian form, in XVI-XVII century it was probably widespread from Dniester River to Don River, forming large herds in Podolia. Bisons amounted considerable quantity on territory of the Kyiv province. The last information about bison’s encounter at forest-steppe and steppe zone could is dated to the second half of the XVIII century, when they were in Podolia and Black Sea steppes. However, at the end of XVIII century bison disappeared from the steppe and forest-steppe areas of Ukraine. The exact date of disappearance of bisons in Ukrainian Polesia is not specified, but they disappeared on this territory not later than the end of the XVIII century.
It is known from the 1717 records of Kantemir that Carpathian form of bison lived till the beginning of the XVII century. Turanin in 1972 marks that the last wisent in Marmarosh Carpathians was killed in 1814 year, but this report still remains unfounded. More concrete information is that the last wisent in Carpathians was shot in 1762. Moreover, it is specified that general disappearance of mountain subspecies was in 1790. The Romanian sources testify that on Bukovyna bisons were present until the beginning of ХІХ century. Nevertheless, not later than up to the beginning of XIX century the honor of aboriginal European fauna – European bison – had extincted on our lands. It is worth saying that bison extermination was insistently conducted in other European countries as well: bison extinction on the Sweden territory took place in XI century. Interestingly, that historical memory of this nation did not hold no notion about bison appearance; therefore, when it was reintroduced to the fauna of this country, it was considered by indigenous people to be exotic animal. Not later than in XVI century bison was totally exterminated in Central Europe, and in XVII century also on the majority of flatlands of Eastern Europe. In that way, Bialowezian Forests and Carpathian Mountains had remained the last habitats of this animal until remorseless arm of the hunter finished its black deed. Symbolically, at another corner of the globe the same cruel arm had almost completed the extermination of wisent’s nearest relative – American bison.
Despite having evident morphological differences, European (a) and American (b) bisons are very close species, able to intercross freely with each other giving fertile progeny. That’s why they were believed by some scientists to be the same species
However, bison didn’t extinct finally on the planet, as it happened, for instance, to aurochs or wild horse – tarpan, widespread animals, which contributed many years ago to stability of forest and forest-steppe ecosystems in Europe. The first attempts to restore wisent in Ukraine were done before the revolution, when the last bison herd in wild still existed on the territory of Bialowezian Forest. Thus, in the hunting park of Count Józef Potocki “Pylyavyn” (Novograd Volyn district of Zhitomir region) lowland subspecies of wisents from Białowieża Forest along with the American bison specimens were imported. Besides, in winter 1913 thoroughbred bialowezian wisents (1 male and 3 females) were brought in enclosure of “Crimean Royal Hunt” (in present it's Crimean reserve), but animals felt badly and began to lose weight, so they were released in 1914. By 1917 there were 9 heads. Both groups of wisents died in the revolutionary events.
The first attempts to restore wisent in Ukraine were before the revolution. Thus, in the hunting park of Count Józef Potocki “Pylyavyn” (Novograd Volyn district of Zhitomir region) lowland subspecies of wisents from Białowieża Forest along with the American bison specimens were imported. Besides, in winter 1913 thoroughbred bialowezian wisents (1 male and 3 females) were brought in enclosure of “Crimean Royal Hunt” (in present it's Crimean reserve), but animals felt badly and began to lose weight, so they were released in 1914. By 1917 there were 9 heads. Both groups of wisents died in the revolutionary events.
Subsequent attempts to restore bison concerned works based on the hybridization with American bisons that were conducted in Askania Nova and recurring import of individuals in 1937 to present Crimean reserve. In 1941 the herd of hybrids contained more than 14 heads; however, during the war-time it was exterminated by invaders and partisans. After complete death of free living bialowezian wisents during the First World War, in 1923 in Frankfurt am Main the International Society for Protection of European Bison was created. Species was reproduced on the basis of 54 zoo individuals, which originated from 12 animals-founders. In post-war years in the Soviet part of the Białowieża Forest, a nursery was built for breeding of thoroughbred bisons received from Poland. They were represented by two genetic lines: Białowieża (lowland) and Białowieża-Caucasian (with admixture of blood from a single representative of the Caucasian subspecies - bull named Kaukasus). Afterwards a decision was accepted about maintenance on territory of the Białowieża Forest exceptionally bialowezian line of bisons; all representatives of Białowieża-Caucasian lines were removed. Because of the fact that territory of Ukraine belongs to the natural habitat of bisons, since 1965 systematic work was begun on creation here a free living population. Białowieża nursery was located too close to the border. In the central districts of Russia the new Prioksko-Terasny and Okskiy wisent nurseries are created. Animals from these breeding centres were actively settled in different places of Ukraine. Bison’s groups were created in L’viv, Rivne, Volyn, Kyiv, Chernivtsi regions of Ukraine. Unsuccessful attempt was made on restoration of wisents in Crimea. Left on the north slopes of the Crimean Mountains in Bakhchisaray district, the wisents caused numerous conflicts, so in 1980 these animals (20 heads) were evacuated in the Chernihiv region. In 1976-1986 new populations were created in Ivano-Frankivs’k, Vinnitsia, L’viv (Lopatyn population), and Sumy regions. Expansion of wisents also took place on the territory of Khmelnitski region. Thus, at the beginning of 1990th the quantity of wisent steadily increased. All free living Ukrainian populations consisted from Białowieża-Caucasian line of wisents. An exception was Lopatyn population, situated on the territory of state hunting husbandry “Styr” in Radehiv district of L’viv region.
After relatively secure Soviet times, at the end of 1990th the number of wisent’s populations began to decline rapidly. Afterwards populations fully disappeared in Ivano-Frankivsk (Nadvirnyanska population), Rivne (on territory of Klevanske hunting husbandry), and Khmel'nytskiy regions (group of individuals of Volyn subpopulation which migrated from Tsumanska forest). However, thorough investigation of this adverse event was not conducted. Therefore, further development of this trend led to a sharp reduction of quantity of two major Uladivska and Bukovinska populations, and decline of Tsumanska population of Volyn region to the limits of its survival. Also we should recognize the full loss of Daniv population in Chernihiv region the real tragedy of recent years.
Dynamics of quantity of bison populations in regions of Ukraine
On the 1st of January, 2008, an amount of Ukrainian bisons according to official data was 258 heads, whereas results of independent investigations showed figures of not more than 190-230 heads.
The existing situation in Ukraine is explained by termination of the state attention to the issue of wisent preservation, prosperity of poaching, and also commercial hunting for wisents under the guise of selective shooting, which was organized by State Committee of Forestry of Ukraine.
In all neighbouring countries, where the population of wisents increases, the government programs are conducted for wisent protection. These programs are financed from the state budget or extra budgetary funds. For example, in Poland the state program “Land of wisent” has been implemented since 2003 year. For this initiative from the funds of European Union 956 thousand euros are allocated. In Russia in 1997 the Interregional Program for wisent preservation was approved; in 1998 the Working Group on the wisents was established, and this group adopted the «Wisent conservation strategy in Russia». In Belarus “The State program on resettlement, conservation and use of wisents in Belarus” were approved in 1998. In Ukraine, only one joint decree is developed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and State Committee of Forestry of Ukraine “On approval of the Plan of Action for the conservation of wisents in fauna of Ukraine”. But this plan can not be described as administrative and practical document, as it does not include specific implementation dates, specific executors; the document also doesn't provide any funding (who-is-who.com.ua/bookmaket/hunting2006/2/10.html). In addition, the development of State financed program for wisent protection finds no support in the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The wisent is a desirable and fashionable trophy for wealthy hunters. In fact, wisent is not protected from poachers neither by severe penalties (up to 1700 UAH), reimbursement (up to 2500 UAH), nor by imprisonment for up to three years. Indeed, poaching remains completely unpunished. A separate issue is also a complete lack of wisent protection outside forest lands.
One of the reasons for the rapid reduction of the wisents’ is selective shooting, which is not mentioned in official overviews (http://www.myvin.com.ua/ua/news_vin/archive/news_world/659). Article 19 of the Law of Ukraine “About the Red Book of Ukraine” allows, as an exception, getting Red Book species for breeding and scientific purpose. Instruction on the selective shooting of game animals, approved by State Committee of Forestry of Ukraine, determines that “selective shooting is conducted in the case of the sick, injured animals, old animals with clear signs of degradation, underdeveloped two-years-old young animals, animals with uncharacteristic colour… Shooting of healthy animals, which have no clear anomalies in their structure, is categorically prohibited”. All decisions regarding the selective shooting must be agreed with the Commission of the Red Book. However, the first such agreement was given only in 2007, so during all this time such shooting has been committed illegally. In addition, it was found that since 2000 the Committee of Veterinary Medicine has not issued any permission for the export of wisent trophies.
Russian businessman Andreev with bison shot by him
Shooting of rare animals for profit attained its culmination after 2002, when State Committee of Forestry accepted an order «About the statement of boundary levels of prices on hunting trophies, which are obtained by foreign citizens, and boundary levels of tariffs on services, which they get». This document defined payment on services of commercial hunting on two species of animals listed in the Red Book of Ukraine: the bear and the wisent. According to this price list for shooting a bear a foreigner had to pay 2600-3100 UAH, for getting trophy wisent, which obtains a gold medal by the assessment of CIC, - 3100-3600 UAH, silver medal - 2600-3100 UAH, bronze medal - 2100 - 2600 UAH, for killing female wisent - 1100-1300 UAH, and young animal - 800-1100 UAH (www.svshunt.com). (www.svshunt.com). You can watch the shocking video of wisent hunting on www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w7FoRm3dGM
Unregistered “trophies” in the garage of Khmel’nytsky forestry
Besides, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has issued a «Regulations on the order of accounting, certification and issuance of permits for the relocation, getting (capture, shooting) wisents for selection» dated by the 19 of December 1991. This document was used only to attract foreign hunters for «selective shooting» of wisent, take payments and use killed wisent as a trophy.
In 1990-th Danivka subpopulation (Chernihiv district) numbered more than 100 bisons. Nevertheless, they were steadily shooted, and the meat was carved on the Nizhyn meat-packing plant. The last Chernihiv wisents were bayed with cars to the Oster River, where they faced their death.
It should be noted that the selective shooting of specimens incapable in reproduction, or those who have signs of genetic degeneration consistently applied in Poland and Belaru.
But in these cases only tagged for selection wisents are killed. Indeed, the wisents with disabilities may sometimes have good horn as a trophy; this in turn allows organizing hunting for wealthy people, as it happens in Boretsky Forest. Obtained funds are forwarded for support wisents breeding and purchase of additional forage for these animals. Quality of infrastructure for breeding wisents in Poland convinces that it is really so. However, unlike Poland, in Ukraine hunting for selection was only a cover for the shooting of any desired wisent that brought substantial profits to organizers of such hunting. Decline of cultivation and resettlement of wisents confirms such state of affairs.
Thus, currently wisents survived only in Sumy, Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Volyn, Lviv and Chernivtsi regions. The inventory of their livestock was performed at the request of environmental public organizations; the results show relatively low percentage of young animals among overall population and dominance of females over males. On the whole, wisents males are more vulnerable to diseases including those associated with the consequences of inbreeding depression. Under conditions when the balanoposthitis was distributed only in one group of Ukrainian wisents (Naddvirnyanska subpopulation), which is now fully eliminated, this gender imbalance evidences about the consequences of VIP-poaching, which was realized under the guise of selective shooting, because its targets are primarily males with trophy qualities horns.
Despite of weakening of wisent modern populations they are represented in most of the natural zones of Ukraine: Polesia, Carpathian Mountains and forest-steppe natural zones, and serve as good source material for further wisent husbandry, fitted to these natural areas. Bukovynska population and population of National park «Skolivski Beskydy» are very promising for the creation of large transboundary herds of wisent in cooperation with Romania, Poland and Slovakia. Bukovynska population is very valuable for solving the problem of lowland wisents’ adaptation to extreme mountain environment; it can provide adapted to mountain conditions wisents for settling them in other areas of Carpathians.
Currently wisents’ populations in Ukraine live in quite large woodlands, which are represented mainly by mixed coniferous-deciduous forests with varying degrees of economic exploitation. Along with forest there are meadow ecosystems and agrocenosis in most areas, which have great importance for the survival of wisents’ populations in the winter time.
Because the majority of wisent groups live on the territories of hunting husbandries, in winter they can get additional forage, which is prepared mainly for maintenance of other game animals. During the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 animals of Bialowezska-Caucasian line were imported in location of Lopatinska group that was the last residence of Bialowezska genetic line of wisents in Ukraine. It was a planned measure according to the Action Plan for Ukrainian wisents’ conservation. Moreover, 6 animals originated from Germany were imported to National Park “Skolivs’ky Beskydy” in June, 2009.
Currently wisents are protected only in the National Park «Skolivski Beskydy» (Lvyv region, area is 35 684 hectares), and in local reserves «Zubr» (Volyn region, area is 2 732 hectares) and «Zubrovytsya» (Chernivtsi region, area is 11 700 hectares). Wisents live on the territory of State hunting husbandry “Styr” within Lahodivske and Zabolotsivske Forestry, and occupy territory of the total area of 9 thousand 563 hectares. Pathways of movement and location of the wisents go through protected areas «Lahodivske» (6,2 ha), «Zabolotsivske» (46,2 ha), and partly through botanical reserve «Kempa» (10 ha) and hydrological reserve «Ponykivsky», total area of 112,1 ha. Konotopska wisents population is situated in existing regional landscape park (projected National Park) «Serednoseymsky», total area of 53 400 hectares. State residence «Zalissia», which is the location of semi-free living wisents group, is planned to be transformed into a national park
The semi-free living Ukrainian wisents are held only in state residence «Zalissia» and in zoos. Unfortunately not in all zoos of Ukraine there are conditions for successful reproduction of wisents; animals are often presented in the exhibition by single old specimens.
Lone wisent in the Simpheropol managerie
Survey in Ukrainian zoos showed that the issue of wisent procreator acquisition remains very difficult. It is almost unreal to receive the permit for capturing wisents for zoo, contrasting with receiving a permit for selective shooting. In this situation it is much easier to buy American bisons. As a result, one of the largest zoos in Ukraine – Kharkiv zoo – doesn’t have wisents at all, and breeds only American bisons. Another difficulty in wisents’ keeping is necessity to supply them with woody forage, whereas herbaceous feed is enough for American bisons.
Accordingly, nowadays only two zoos have propagable wisents; meanwhile wisents in the Vinnytsa zoo have their origin in Kyiv zoo. All this bisons originated from Pryoksko-Terasny nursery and belong to Bialowezian-Caucasian line. The first wisents’ breed was got in the Kyiv zoo in 1973.
In addition, in Ukrainian zoos quality of life of wisents is not good. Indeed, because of carelessness of zoo management, some of wisents have starved to death, such as in the case of pregnant female in Cherkasy zoo.
Wisent is essential part of world of nature, which encompassed ancient slavonian living on the territory of Kievian Rus. These powerful creatures are mentioned on the pages of novels dedicated to this period of our history. Impressive is the description of wisents herd moving through misty morning forest in the novel “Miracle” by Pavlo Zahrebelny. Later bisons were those animals which surrounded steppe Cossacks fighting for freedom. Javornytsky, a chronicler of Zaporiz’ka Sich, mentions them as praerian bulls.
On the territory of L’viv region river Zubra flows (ukr. “zubr”=wisent). There are also a village in Pustomyliv district of L’viv region and an amenity forest in L’viv which are named after this river. During Soviet age wisent was one of the main symbols of nature conservation; its image could be found almost in all books and leaflets dedicated to protection of nature of Ukrainian SSR. There are bison monuments in Ukraine; for instance, a figure of this animal is located near the Kyiv zoo entrance.
Zoological conferences often choose bison as their emblems. Specifically, Yong Zoologists’ Conference which took place in 2009 had a bison mage on its emblem. With the patronage movement development in Kyiv Zoo, large animals became the first candidates for wardship; particularly, bison felt under the patronage of the first assistant of Kyiv Council Head.
Zubra Village Council has adopted the emblem of the village which portrays a red bison on a yellow background of the square width, facing a shaft. A blue horizontal stripe occupies the one forth of the flag height on the top. The emblem was designed by A. Grechilo.
An emblem of the Zubra village (L’viv region)
In 2003 The National Bank of Ukraine emitted silver coins designed by Volodymyr Demyanenko with face value 2 and 10 Ukrainian hryvnas with bison image.
A silver coin with the wisent image
Among local people attitude towards bisons alters from antagonistic, as the large animal harmful and can damage agriculture lands, to positive – some indigenous enthusiasts really worship wisent as a treasure of nature of Ukrainian regions.
Horrifying bloom of poaching and trophy hunting is a convincing evidence that the general attitude of Ukrainians towards this animal did not notably changed from the Medieval Age, when it was regarded as the hunting target and the source of large portion of meat.
On the whole, 1990th and 2000th have been extremely harsh for the population of wisents. At that time Ukraine has finally lost the leadership in quantity of this rare animal. The rest of free living subpopulations have imbalanced gender structure, and can not survive without human intervention. Basing on this bad situation we can conclude that raise of the attention of scientists and the public to the population of wisents is essential. In this case, it will be better to follow the experience of modern Poland, which has the largest population of this animal in the world. Measures for recovery of wisents should base on scientific researches, law reforms, search of financial support, and educational activities. They fall into such categories:
Scientific researches. Important task is to create a scientific group of zoologists, zoo workers, representatives of public organizations, which are engaged in work with wisents, and the regional offices of environmental protection. Such research group may exist within the Commission of the Red Book in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection. This group should enter into contact with European Bison Friends Society. Its primary tasks are careful inventory of all semi-free and free subpopulations of wisents with defined origin, and transmission of these data for the European bison pedigree book.
Efforts also should be aimed at identifying locations suitable for creating free-living wisents populations. This species, as evidenced by research, is unpretentious enough to the conditions of existence; wisents inhabit a wide range of mixed-forests that alternate with open stations and have a good source of drinking water. Separately, the capacity of land, availability of food and amount of required additional forage should be studied. The best locations are in remote places with underdeveloped network of settlements. Also conditions for the creation of transboundary livestock should be studied that will make possible creation of several large herds numbering not less than 1000 heads, which will guarantee long-term survival of species.
Wisents have passed through the effect of population bottleneck, so they are very vulnerable to diseases. This situation obliges to be ready to contend against outbreaks of certain diseases. So, recently in German in wisent breeding nursery Hardihauzen in a short period 10 wisent died from the outbreak of bluetongue disease. Taking into account this threat, veterinary control for wisents’ populations must be introduced with involvement of scientific veterinary institutions of Ukraine.
Legal measures. It is required to increase protection category of wisent in Red Book of Ukraine to the second category - vulnerable species, which in the near future may be classified as «endangered», if the effect of factors affecting the population does not stop. The up-to-day question is creation of legal mechanism for civil compensation of loss in agriculture caused by wisents (crop damage, destruction of fences, etc.) and state aid as forage for additional feeding to those farmers who hold wisents. At the same time this forage can be used by other hunting animals that create benefits for hunting husbandries which hold wisents. It is expedient to add an item on the protection of wisents to the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine «On the list of activities related to environmental measures» (September 17, 1996 № 1147) that will allow more easily allocate funds from regional environmental funds at various events (additional feeding, relocation, etc.) for wisents’ protection.
Organizational measures. Currently in Ukraine there are no financed long-term state programs related to a whole wisent population. There are only joint document of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and State Committee of Forestry of Ukraine «Program of European bison (wisent) reintroduction in the Skole Beskydy (Ukrainian Carpathians) until 2015», which was approved on 25 of October 2007.
In addition, under the influence of environmental organisations, according to the plan of environmental protection, from the budgetary programme of the Fund for Environmental Protection «Formation of National Ecological Network» until 2011 provided the research theme «Certification of subpopulations and development of plan for the wisent resettlement in Ukraine based on the current state, the feeding base and optimum quantity; development and implementation of measures for its preservation, including informational and educational actions». Executor of the theme with budget of 840 000 UAH is the Shmalhausen Institute of Zoology NAS of Ukraine. However, it is clear that one such event is not enough. Undoubtedly, it is necessary to adopt the experience of neighbouring countries and develop and approve the state program for protection and breeding of wisent that would include the concrete and financed constant current protection strategy (the description of measures planned within the project could be found on www.lesovod.org.ua/node/3170). It’s clear that the formation and implementation of such programs is not one year aim, but we must start now.
Significant efficiency also demonstrates the creation of public funds and involvement of environmental non-governmental organizations and media for wisents’ protection. (опис однієї з них “Врятуймо зубрів див. за посиланням: http://www.huntingukraine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=785:ksor---i-&catid=159&Itemid=101).
Current situation in forestry and hunting economy requires the creation of new or relocation of existing populations of wisents from hunting husbandries (which are not interested in their protection) to reserves and national parks. It’s needed to promote actively the creation of new nature reserves in wisents’ habitats, including national park “Tsumanska Pushcha” in Volyn region, national park “Serednoseymsky” in Sumy region, special reserves for wisents in Vinnytsya forestry and hunting husbandry “Styr”, and provide expansion of existing protected areas: reserve “Zubrovytsya” in Chernivci region and “Zubr” in Volyn region, which is still sabotaged by foresters (http://versii.cv.ua/i/?p=1043).
Due to considerable problems related to process of bison importing from abroad, it is time for creation of bison nursery similar to the one in Pryoksko-Terasnyj reserve. The best place for it seems to be on the territory of the future National Park “Zalissia” or Regional Landscape Park “Mezhyrichensky”.
It is necessary to solve the question on the transfer of wisents to Ukrainian zoos, which have a desire to breed wisents, in case that they will provide offsprings for resettlement and replenishment of existing populations. Thus, some of zoos can be converted to additional nurseries for wisents. The issue of equal importance is to renew wisent breeding in the steppe zone on the basis of zoo in biosphere reserve “Askaniya Nova”.
An important matter for the security of wisents in the fauna of Ukraine is creation of several large base populations of wisents having 500-1000 heads in each. Areas for wisents’ dwelling are available in transboundary territories of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia and Romania.
Operational measures. Efforts should be aimed at improving combat with poaching as the main threat for wisents. In some way this issue proceeds to creation of new wisents’ groups on the territories of national parks and nature reserves, which can allow using capabilities of existing guard groups for wisents’ protection. Ideal situation will be to create well-equipped specialized units for the protection of wisents. No less important is the investigation of all cases of poaching for the wisents, bringing offenders to account, and publication results in the press. Propaganda and educational activities are not less important in fight for Ukrainian wisents’ protection, because changing attitude of Ukrainians to the wisents as harmful animals or hunting trophy on the idea of it as a living memorial of Kievan Rus requires considerable investments and efforts. Changing the attitude of local people to the wisents, explaining the necessity and features of the restoration of wisents populations should be done by developing and implementing educational programs for students in areas of wisents’ residence, and wide propaganda through Ukrainian public hunting organizations and hunting magazines. Organization of large campaigns in the media shows its high efficiency. An effective measure could be adopting Polish experience in creation of «Park of wisents» (where they are in semi-free conditions) for environmental education and monitoring for students and tourists. Wisents, which are culled from natural livestock, should be captured for such parks. It’s necessary to develop and implement programs for attraction of socially oriented business. For example, the Russian office of WWF implemented program “Adopt wisent” and “Wisent under good protection”. It will be interesting to approve medal for the protection of wisents, similar to experience of Poland, which is awarded the Medal “Friend of wisent”. Currently coalition of Ukrainian environmental organizations, together with the Ukrainian Theriological School, under support of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, announced 2009 year in Ukraine - The Year of Wisent (pryroda.in.ua/dop-kyiv/2009-–-rik-zubra-v-ukraїni). Also thematic speeches are planned on environmental and scientific conferences to draw attention to questions of protection of the patriarch of Ukrainian forests - wisents.
Wisent is not only an integral component of the fauna of Ukraine, which return the ecosystem closer to original form, but also a real symbol of wild nature, which requires special and careful approach to conservation and reproduction.
In Ukraine, wisents came under threat of extinction not due to some natural causes related to its biology or availability of suitable habitats, but because of uncontrolled poaching and savage commercial shooting. Restoration of wisents’ populations in Ukraine first of all requires the formation, approval and implementation of programs provided with targeted budgetary funds.
Let’s remember, that humankind is branded for almost complete fact of wisent extermination. That’s why restoration of its population and everlasting care have to be the only way to wipe off this deep disgrace.