The Wilder Blean Project brings together Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust, which was awarded £1.125 million from People's Postcode Lottery Dream Fund in 2020.
The bison will create a more climate resilient landscape within West Blean and Thorden Woods, near Canterbury, Kent, and their natural behaviours will help restore dynamic and complex habitats.
By creating layers within the forest and naturally felling trees, the woodland will move away from being a monoculture, and wetter areas will not only store carbon, but reduce flood risk.
This is the first time in thousands of years that wild bison have roamed in UK woodlands as part of a landmark experiment to test this nature-based solution to habitat management as well as combatting the climate and nature crises.
Wilder Blean - Bison Release
Evan Bowen-Jones Chief Executive Officer at Kent Wildlife Trust said:
“The restoration of naturally functioning ecosystems is a vital and inexpensive tool in tackling the climate crisis.
“The bison will help to create climate resistant landscapes which can adapt to the challenges presented by the crisis we face.
“We want Wilder Blean to mark the beginning of a new era for conservation in the UK. We need to revolutionise the way we restore natural landscapes, relying less on human intervention and more on natural engineers like bison, boar and beaver."
European bison are a keystone species who will help restore natural processes in West Blean and Thornden Woods. Known as ‘eco-system engineers,’ the bison will breathe new life into the ancient woodland. Their natural behaviours such as grazing, eating bark, felling trees and taking dust baths will open the canopy, creating light and new spaces for wildlife and previously missing species to thrive.
The bison will soon be joined by other grazing animals, including Exmoor ponies, Iron Age pigs and Longhorn cattle, whose natural behaviours compliment the bison and will help to manage the landscape without the need for human intervention. Their impact on biodiversity and the landscape will be closely monitored in a long-term survey programme led by Kent Wildlife Trust.
This £1.125m project was funded by money raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and awarded through the annual Dream Fund. Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:
“The introduction of these extraordinary animals to British woodlands is a significant moment in the fight to protect and enhance biodiversity. It’s fantastic to see support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery going towards restoring and increasing biodiversity and bio-abundance in West Blean woods.”
The Wilder Blean project was created as a direct response to the decline in natural species in the UK, which, according to the State of Nature Report, has seen species decline at the fastest rate in thousands of years. Introducing bison is also an alternative to traditional human woodland management, giving nature the tools and space it needs to recover.