EAZA Ex situ Programme (EEP)

European bison

(Bison bonasus)

 Nadja Lane
Institution:   Jersey Zoo

EAZA Member Area


Jersey Zoo logo

IUCN Red List status


IUCN Red List NT


Programme roles

Saving the European bison from extinction is considered one of the biggest successes in European conservation for which zoo populations were essential. Zoo populations are still essential in the continued conservation efforts of this species within Europe.

Direct Conservation icon  Insurance
The EEP will function as an insurance population for the in situ population as the EEP population is demographically stable, behaviorally competent and genetically healthy.

 Population restoration
The EEP will provide behaviourally competent and genetically valuable individuals for release into the wild and semi-wild as appropriate and needed.

The European bison is the largest terrestrial animal in Europe but it is not well known and often confused with the American bison. Additionally few people are aware of the species’ extinction and the role that zoos have played in saving the species. It is important to raise awareness and get support from the general public but also among politicians to advocate for release of European bison in areas around Europe and improve the conservation status of the species.

It is important to keep advocating for the European bison and to key messaging around the ‘second momentum for bison’ a century after their extinction.

The EEP population can be used to develop research on new methods and techniques that can benefit the management and conservation of the in and ex situ populations. Examples include: studies on assisted reproduction, husbandry, anesthesia, contraception and vaccination. 
Indirect Conservation icon  Model species
European bison can be used as example of how reintroduction can be successful but also that the populations need continued management.

Programme numbers

In April 2018, the European bison EEP had 625 animals in 84 institutions.

Programme highlights

  • EAZA published its 2021 Annual TAG Report with on page 54 the activities of the Cattle and Camelid TAG.
  • The IUCN SSC Bison Species Group published, together with the European Bison Conservation Center, a new report on the ecology and status of the European bison. 
  • RZSS Highland Wildlife Park has a fact page about the European bison their website

LIFE logo with white paddingThis work is supported by the European Union LIFE NGO funding programme. The European Union is not responsible for the views displayed in publications and/or in conjunction with the activities for which the grant is used.