The last time a wild bison roamed what it is now the United Kingdom, the world was a much a different place—and 6,000 years younger. But an ambitious new program aims to reintroduce the animal to a forest near Canterbury in Kent, reports the Guardian. One male and three females will be brought to the forest from the Netherlands or Poland, both of which have had success with similar programs, per CNN. Typically, a female has one calf per year, and the hope is that the small herd will gradually increase in size. These bison will be European bison, the closest existing relative to the ancient steppe bison that disappeared thousands of years ago.
"Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape," says the director of the Kent Wildlife Trust, one of two conservation charities behind the $1.4 million project, per USA Today. The bison take out trees by eating bark or rubbing against them to remove fur, but in this case, the modest destruction of trees is welcomed. The downed trees provide a home for insects, which draw birds and another animals, and the cleared area allows plants to flourish. All this will take place in a forest managed by wildlife officials, though the public will be allowed to visit eventually. (Read more bison stories.)