German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


European Bison at the Rothaargebirge

Funding priority

Sustaining species diversity: Reintroducing and protecting highly endangered species


Siegen-Wittgenstein administrative districts, North Rhine-Westphalia


09/2005 - 07/2006 (preliminary study)

10/2009 - 09/2013 (main project)

11/2009 - 09/2015 (accompanying research)

Brief description

The main aim of this testing and development project is to establish a semi-wild group of European bison in an approximately 4,300 ha area of the Rothaargebirge region (Siegen-Wittgenstein administrative district, North Rhine-Westphalia). The group has a planned size of 20 to 25 animals, which is the area’s estimated carrying capacity.

The project takes conservation work for the European lowland bison significantly beyond zoo breeding programmes. The bison will also add to the ranks of large native herbivores and refill a now-vacant ecological niche for grazers. Planned accompanying research will study bison behaviour, habitat use, ecology and impacts on forest development, including from a commercial forestry standpoint.

As about half the project area is on the Schanze Natura 2000 site, there is a need to assess what releasing bison in the wild means for the site conservation and future development.

Work to build public acceptance in the region aims to show that if properly managed, a viable  habitat can be created for formerly indigenous large mammals even in densely populated Germany, and human land use interests can be reconciled with the animals’ needs. The project’s economics will also be appraised with a view to tourism marketing for the region. The accompanying research therefore includes studies on the socioeconomic impact of such projects.

Intensive public relations work will inform visitors to the region about the biology and history of the European bison, project aims, the bison’s place in the ecosystem, and associated natural processes. A viewing enclosure (which is not part of the testing and development project) and information stand will also help guide visitors and publicise the project.

Entity responsible for the project

Taurus Naturentwicklung e.V. (preliminary study)
Lindenhöhe 16
07749 Jena, Germany

Wisent-Wildnis-Wittgenstein e.V. (main project and accompanying research)
Poststr. 42
57319 Bad Berleburg, Germany

Liaison at BfN

Dr. Peter Finck, FG II 2.1

Project funding agencies

Federal Agency for Nature Conservation; North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry for Enviroment and Nature Conservation, Agriculture and Consumer Protection; Wisent-Wildnis-Wittgenstein e.V.; Zoologische Gesellschaft Frankfurt; Taurus Naturentwicklung e.V.; Deutsche Umwelthilfe; Large Herbivore Network; HIT Umwelt- und Naturschutzstiftung

Grant amount

€ 1,879,000

Further information

Website 'Wisente im Rothaargebirge' (European bison in the Rothaargebirge)

Last Change: 20/07/2017