MINSK, December 1. /TASS/. Belarus has handed over a pair of European bison to China, the press service of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the republic reported.
"During his state visit to China earlier this year, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko promised two Belarusian bison as a gift. Today, the bison from the state environmental institution Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park have been safely delivered to China and transferred to the Beijing Zoo," the report reads.
Ahead of the animals' transfer, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Belarus and the Chinese National Forestry and Grassland Administration concluded an agreement aimed at protecting the male and female European bison transferred to China. The Chinese side undertook to provide appropriate care for the animals and inform about the conditions of their maintenance, diet and breeding.
Currently, there are 11 free-living micro-populations of bison in Belarus. The number of animals has grown more than seven times during the years of independence, exceeding 2,600 animals, including 730 in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The National Park noted in early April, commenting on the results of the next annual count of the animals, that "the trend of annual increases in the number of bison continues."
The first five bison arrived in the Belarusian part of Belovezhskaya Pushcha in 1946. They were handed over to the Soviet Union by Poland by a decision of the International Society for the Protection of the European Bison. However, all the animals were closely related and did not produce viable offspring. In 1949, in exchange for polar bears, moose and camels, the Soviet Union received a group of bison of a different pedigree from Poland. Currently, the European bison is included in the Red Book of Belarus. In the Polish part of the forest, there are 779 ungulates from the family of pronghorns, which includes the genus bison.
Now the bison population is threatened by the border wall erected by Poland on the border with the republic. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the artificial barrier has already led to fragmentation of unique relict forests, protected habitats of red-listed animals, impoverishment of the gene pool of their populations, and disruption of the hydrological regime of adjacent ecosystems.