Forest inhabitants feel at home
Last year, the number of aurochs in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park increased by 23, and now stands at 415. Numbers are counted each winter, since the animals tend to stay closer to feeding places, making them easier to keep track of. According to calculations, there are 48 young aurochs (under one year old) while 46 aurochs are ‘semi-adult’ (between 1 and 3.5 years old). The share of female and male animals in this subgroup is almost equal: 22 and 24 respectively. Meanwhile, there are 233 adult aurochs (over 3.5 years), with female aurochs prevailing: 155 against 78. In fact, more aurochs are living in the Pushcha than have been seen since 1946, when restoration of the National Park began.
The auroch is the heaviest and largest land mammal on the European continent. These magnificent animals once lived in the area covered by modern Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and the Greater Caucasus but, today, reside only in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and in the Caucasus. WWI was a catastrophe for the majestic animals, with the last free ranging auroch in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha killed in 1921 and in the Caucasus in 1926.
Fortunately, several dozen were kept by zoos, allowing five to be bought from Poland in 1946; they were brought to the Belarusian part of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and their free breeding began in 1953. Today, there are actually more than the optimal number living in the reserve, allowing some to be resettled at other zoos and reserves. In recent years, several aurochs from the Belovezhskaya Pushcha have been taken to Berezinsky Reserve and Pripyatsky National Park. San Sanych and Barynya aurochs are also now permanent ‘residents’ at Minsk Zoo.