Bison set to return to Britain after thousands of years – ‘They look quite intimidating’

It is hoped that they will bring benefits to the environment by rubbing up against tree trunks and eating bark. As the old trees fall and die, they create new gaps in the canopy bringing light to the forest floor.

Britain’s first ever Bison rangers, Tom Gibbs and Donavan Wright, are preparing to welcome four of the animals to Blean Woods near Canterbury in the spring.

The European bison is larger than its American counterpart and can weigh up to a tonne with a shoulder height of 6ft 2in.

Mr Wright, who previously worked with lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and Cape buffalo in southern Africa, explains that despite their intimidating appearance the animals have a gentle nature.

He said: “They look quite intimidating but they’re very gentle natured. They’re gentle giants.”

The rangers were chosen for the job from more than 1,000 applicants and Gibbs explains that they have been working hard to prepare for the arrival of the animals.

He said: “It’s all action here. We’re getting everything ready for when the bison arrive, so they have a seamless transition into their new home.”

Preparing for the arrival of the bison the rangers have been digging drinking pools, installing an electric fence, and practising their tracking skills.

The rangers have just returned from a two-week trip to the Netherlands, where they studied a similar scheme which allowed visitors to walk through an area home to 14 bison.

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The European bison is the closest relative of the ancient steppe bison once found in Britain.

They were driven to extinction in the wild but have been reintroduced across Europe with an estimated population of around 6,000.

Animal reintroduction schemes have become popular in recent years with Beavers returning after being hunted to extinction in the 16th century and white storks making a comeback through a project in Sussex.