Bison in the Rothaar Mountains
Photo: Dieter Menne / dpa
The future of the species protection project for Germany's only herd of wild bison is uncertain.
The district of Siegen-Wittgenstein (NRW) surprisingly announced a few days ago that the project on the Rothaarsteig should "be completed now" - and referred to the Wisent-Welt-Wittgenstein sponsoring association.
The latter could not ensure the necessary framework conditions for a continuation and had declared the termination of the previous agreement.
Cattle were almost extinct in Europe for a long time.
With the help of reintroduction projects and breeding programs, especially in Eastern Europe, the worldwide population has grown again to around 8500 animals.
The animals were released in the Rothaargebirge in 2013.
Partners of the species protection project are the supporting association, the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein and the Arnsberg district government as the representative of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
There have been arguments about the animals for years.
The herd, which grew to 25 cattle, not only stayed in the Rothaargebirge, but also roamed through the neighboring Sauerland, where they caused considerable damage to trees.
After complaints from two forest farmers from Schmallenberg, the Higher Regional Court (OLG) Hamm had recently imposed on the sponsoring association that it had to ensure that damage to the trees by the cattle was prevented.
In the statement from the end of September, the district wrote that the “prerequisites for long-term settlement of the bison were not met”.
It is not possible to reach a consensus for a continuation in the region.
The decision to end the project was "inevitable."
The sponsoring association declared the herd ownerless, used a "legal trick" to get rid of its obligations and wanted to shift responsibility to the public sector.
Support association sees task as completed
According to the sponsoring association, terminating the contract was the last chance "to give the bison in the Rothaargebirge a future in freedom".
Ownership of the animals was given up, which means that the cattle now fell "under the responsibility of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia".
The resettlement project is to be regarded as "completed" and the task of the association as "finished".
The NRW Nature Conservation Ministry said: "The unilateral step taken by the sponsoring association raises contractual, species protection and financial issues that now need to be clarified."
The sponsoring association emphasized in a statement on Tuesday evening that the termination of the public-law contract was permissible.
From the point of view of the association, it is absolutely necessary, "also to ward off possible enforcement measures by plaintiffs against the species protection project".