Last bison at Artis dies; helped save endangered species

Last bison in Artis zoo died (Picture: Natura Artis Magistra)Last bison in Artis zoo died (Picture: Natura Artis Magistra)

The last bison in the Artis zoo has died at the age of 23 years - a very old age for a bison. The bison cow was part of the international bison breeding program and gave birth to her 10th and last calve in the Amsterdam zoo in 2007, the zoo announced on Wednesday.

The European Bison, thus named due to its close relation to the bison of the North American prairie, was completely extinct in the wild in the 1920's. At the time there were only 54 bison still alive in a few zoos. In 1931 the then Artis director Armand Sunier launched a breeding program to prevent the bison from dying out completely.

This program was a complete success. There are currently thousands of bison wandering about in nature reserves in Europe, all the result of the breeding program. The species was given the status "vulnerable" instead of "endangered" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2008.