NZ Lifestyle Block

Why do the bison roam here?


Bison were originally sent to New Zealand zoos as part of a conservati­on strategy almost 100 years ago.

It's estimated that 30-60 million once roamed the North American Great Plains, but by 1884 only 325 remained in the wild.

The US and Canada establishe­d reserves, and the Canadian National Park Board sent beasts to countries where it was thought they would thrive.

Two cows and a bull were loaded on a boat in Vancouver destined for NZ, the first bison to cross the equator. All three were wild, and the bull was particular­ly fierce. Four days after leaving port, he lay down and died. A calf born during the journey also died.

The surviving cows were alone at Auckland Zoo until 1929 when two replacemen­t bulls arrived. The first calf was born in November 1930.

Today, there are small herds of bison at Orana Wildlife Park and Hamilton Zoo and an estimated 100 or so in private ownership.

In the US, they now number over 500,000. There's even more ‘beefalo,' a bison-cattle-cross bred commercial­ly for meat.

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