The last wild European Bison was shot in 1927, but the species has made a comeback thanks to breeding programs like one at Poland’s Zoo Wroclaw, where a male calf was born on September 19.
Keepers named the new calf Powolniak, which translates as “the slow one,” reflecting his relaxed personality. The calf’s name needed to start with “PO” because he was born in Poland, according to naming rules dictated by the European Bison Pedigree Book, which tracks the parentage of each animal to maintain the highest possible level of genetic diversity in the population.
Three subspecies of European Bison, Europe’s largest wild mammal, once roamed the entire European continent. One by one, they each became extinct in the wild until in the 1920s, only 12 European Bison and seven Lowland Bison remained in some European zoos.
After World War II, zoos began to cooperate to save the European Bison and Poland became the center of the breeding efforts. Today, more than 5,000 European Bison live in zoos and wild areas in Europe, with a high concentration in Poland. Once listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the European Bison is now listed as Vulnerable.