The European bison is the largest terrestrial mammal in Europe, with an adult male weighing 900 pounds. A strong animal, that prefers to stay away from the humans and live finally a safe and protected life in the forests. In the past, the European Bison was totally extinct from nature, with the last bison hunted in 1926.
Previously, these giant herbivores inhabited a vast area from Britain, the Iberian Peninsula, to West Siberia. But with the destruction of their habitat, huge populations began to decline sharply. The Bison have a great reputation of legendary beast for also having been used in fights in the Coliseum, both gladiators and animals fought between lions. His flesh was much appreciated, and skin imported and sold to other countries.
From the sixteenth century, with a much smaller distribution, King Sigismund II Augustus Polish was the first to make offers to protect the species by banning their hunting. It was rare and interesting for a king create laws for the conservation of a species. But, this attitude was then adopted by other kings. But the intention wasn't to help in their conservation -- but exactly the opposite. Only the kings and the nobles were allowed to hunt Bison. They used the animals as entertainment for hours of hunting, and had greater opportunity to take a trophy home, that would be the head and skin of the bison, to show their status as a skilled hunter.
However, after being hunted year after year, the European Bison was extinguished almost in the entire Europe, leaving only the species Bison bonasus bonasus in the Bialowieza Forest, and the subspecies Bisonbonasus caucasicus in Caucasus Mountains. Something needed to be done -- fast -- because under those conditions the target was right: extinction.
The future of the species was at stake, and during the war they were cruelly decimated, many serving as food for German soldiers and others were killed by persistent poachers. In 1919 the last European bison in the Bialowieza forest was killed and in 1926 the last free living Bison was killed in Caucasus Mountains. An unparalleled tragedy for nature.
But there was still hope. In late 1924, 54 European Bison were found in zoos across the world. With this, experts selected the suitable animals for breeding, those who were not old or sick. Of these, 12 bison were chosen to be part of the captive breeding project of the International Society for the Protection of the European Bison. And only five of these 12 had reproductive success.