Dzieje żubra w Puszczy Białowieskiej
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The bison (Bison bonasus L.) has inhabited the forests of Europe for thousands of years. The above fact is best borne out by the numerous images of these animals to be found on the walls of caves – the dwelling places of the pre-historic man. Yet the development of civilization has led to a gradual extinction of the bison in individual countries, among others, due to hunting, which was willingly indulged in by the feudal elites and the catching of these animals and exporting them to the zoos and private breeding stations. Except for Poland, this species had become extinct before the end of the 18th century, whereas by the next century, it was only the Bialowieza Forest in Poland that remained its only sanctuary. Since the year 1809 an annual registration of the bison has been carried out there; at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the number of these animals oscillated around a few hundred specimen. Yet the situation changed during World War I. Already during the German occupation of the territory of the Bialowieza Forest, a rapid drop in the number of bisons could be observed, whereas during the period of anarchy which followed shortly after the withdrawal of the Germans, in the first half of 1919, these animals became totally exterminated. Four years later, an International Association for Bison Protection was founded from the initiative of Dr. Jan Sztolcman (the then vice-director of the National Natural History Museum in Warsaw). The main goal of this organization, which grouped countries in which there existed closed bison breeding farms, was to increase the numbers of these animals; in its activity, the Society took advantage of the experiences of the “American Bison Society”, an organization whose aim was to protect the American bison. In the year 1929, the first pure blood specimens of the lowland bison were brought to the specially created bison sanctuary in the Bialowieza Forest and in the year 1937 the first bison offspring were born from these cubs. In 1952 the first young were release to the Bialowieza reserve and five years later the Bialowieza herd began to multiply in the wild. At present, thanks to the efforts of a few generations of activists involved in the protection of the bison, this species is no longer facing extinction.
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