A group of 17 European bison are a few steps closer to roaming their historic habitats in the Carpathian mountain range in Romania. Yesterday, the animals were let loose in a re-wilding area, where they will learn how forage for food "in one of the largest reintroductions of the endangered mammal," the Global Post reports.
European bison have a long history of being hunted for their hide and horns, which were used as drinking vessels. Although they went extinct in the wild in the 1900s, the species has survived to graze again through a captive breeding program.
Where the bison have already been reintroduced, such as in southern France, they've had a positive impact on their environment. The plant species in their French grazing range has blossomed from seven to 40.
The 17 bison in the newly-formed Romanian herd were raised across Europe, coming from Germany, Sweden and Italy. A local Orthodox priest blessed the animals as they were released into the mountains.
"This is a very important day because usually we are used to losing species but today we are gaining a species in this area," Magor Csibi, a member of the WWF, tells Agence France-Presse.