Roaming aurochs prepare for migration to neigbouring state

Belarusian giants of the forest settling on Russian expanses
By Yelena Senokosova

The Hybrid Breeding Centre is soon to launch in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, helping improve the aurochs genofond, drawing on Polish experience.

The Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Anatoly Lis, also tells us that the National Academy of Sciences is planning to liaise with Russia and Germany — both of which are keen to introduce aurochs herds.

Bad heredity
There are currently four thousand aurochs worldwide: the largest population (1,100) is found in Poland and the second largest (1,036) in Belarus. About thirty percent of all aurochs live in zoos but Belarus has nine herds existing in the wild.
Why do we need the Hybrid Breeding Centre?

“Our population of Belarusian aurochs stems from just five individuals, so the genofond is depleted. This has weakened their constitution and ability to adapt,” explains the General Director of the Scientific and Practical Centre for Bioresources, of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Mikhail Nikiforov. “The Hybrid Breeding Centre will control the situation, monitoring the correct crossbreeding of aurochs. They’ll be given genetic passports, to allow interbreeding with aurochs abroad and improve their general population.”

Wide prospects
Besides genetic problems, the size of our aurochs herds has grown beyond the capacity of their food source, leading them to seek supplement from agricultural fields. More territory is needed, so co-operation with other countries is welcome.
“The settlement of Belarusian aurochs on Russian territory will ensure the preservation of this rare species long term,” notes Mr. Nikiforov. “A Union State programme is being developed, with large populations planned for the Orel and Vologda regions.”

Russia released about 200 aurochs into the wild previously; sadly, fifty were poached in the first year. Clearly, a system of protection is needed. “Hunting of aurochs may be permitted at some future stage, when scientists are confident of the sustainability of the species in the wild,” Mr. Nikiforov adds.
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