Thursday, November 20, 2008

European bison

The European bison (Bison Bonasus), sometimes known as the wisent, originally inhabited most of the European continent in great numbers. A mature male can weigh up to 900 kilograms and can reach over 2 metres tall at the shoulders. These large mammals have been called the emperors of the forest.
A notable characteristics of the Bison is the disproportionate size of its forequarters when compared to its hindquarters. Its shoulders are broad and heavy with a pronounced hump, while its hindquarters are relatively small in comparison. The hindlegs are covered with short hair while the forequarters are covered with long, shaggy hair and a beard. It is estimated that today only a few thousand European bison remain. Farming and deforestation robbed them of their natural habitat, and poachers relentlessly hunted them down. By the eight century, the european bison in Gaul (modern day France and Belgium) had died out.
In the 16th century, polish kings took steps to protect the species. One of the first kings to act was Sigismund II Augustus who decreed the killing of the European Bison to be a capital offense. Why so? The intention said Dr. Zbigniew Krasinsky of the Bialowieza National park , "was to preserve the animals so they could be the hunting treasures of rulers and their courtiers." Despite the harsh penalty, the statutes failed to protect wild Bison and by the end of the 18th century, the European Bison could only be found in the Bialowieza forest in eastern Poland and Caucasia.
In the 19th century, things finally began to change for the better. After the Russian empire annexed the Bialowieza forest, Emperor Alexandra I made an order to protect the European Bison. The results were soon evident. The Bison population steadily increased and by 1857, nearly 1,900 Bisons were living under the government's protection. Later feeding station were set up to provide food for the bison through out the winter. Watering holes were also carefully planned and ground was clear to cultrivate plants fgor feed.
Sadly, the good times for these bisons was short-lived. Within 60 years,their numbers were cut in half. The final blow of Poland's wild bison came with the outbreak of World war I. Despite a German decree to "preserve these bison for posterity as a unique natural monument,"the herd was decimated by the retreating German Armies, by Russian Resistant fighters and by the ever present poachers. The last wild Bison in Poland was killed.
In an effort to save the bisons, the International Society for the Protection of the Bison was founded in 1923. Its first objective was to count the number of full-blooded bison in captivity. As it turned out, 54 pure bred lowland European bison still remained in the various zoos and menageries around the world. However, not all of them were fit for breeding. Some were too old while others were plagued by disease. Eventually, 12 specimens were chosen for use in boltering the species. It is known that all lowland European bison now living descended from only five of them.
The autumn of 1929 marked the triumphant return of two European bison to the wild. They were placed in a specially prepared reserve in the Bialowieza forest. After ten years, their number grew to 16
At the beginning of the 21st century, there were an estimated 2900 European bison globally. About 700 of them were in Poland. Over the years, herds have also been established in Belarus, Krygystan, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine.
But this does not mean that the European Bison is out of danger. Pest, poachers, disease, food and water shortages still pose a great threat. Genetic defects are also a large cause of concern, the result is a limited gene pool. For these reasons, the european bison is still on the red list, which catalogs endangered plants andanimals worldwide.
Man's determination to preserve this species has helped it to survive to our time. Dr. Krasinski, quoted earlier, remind us however that 'the fate of the European bison provides an example of how a species could be brought to the brink of extinction in a very short time and then save by great efforts."The future of this animal as well as many others remain uncertain. But for now,"the emperors of the forest" have been rescued from oblivion.

The milk bypass in ruminants

If you have ever watched a sheep, a goat, or a cow giving birth, you have probably marvelled on how the newborn quickly gets to its feet and find its way to the udder for milk. BUt in the case of young ruminants, there is another unseen marvel.
Ruminants have a four-chambered stomach for the multiple processes for digestion. So when the newborns feed only on milk,, which does not need all those processes for digestion, a special bypass opens to allow the milk to go directly to the last chamber.
According to research, if milk were to find its way into the first chamber called the rumen, the young ruminant would suffer because the rumen is where hard to digest food is broken down by bacterial fermentation. Fermenting milk produces gas that new borns cannot eliminate. However when newborns drink milk from an udder or a buckett, a reflesx action snaps shut the entry way to the rumen.
Remarkably, something different happens when a newborn drinks water. It needs plenty of water in its rumen so that bacteria and microbes there can multiply, ready for when the youngster begins to live on forage. Although milk goes directly to the last chamber of the stomach, plain water enters the rumen. The calf's amazing bypass is for millk only.