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A female bison was born in England. This conservation organization is celebrating


Last month, in the wilds of east England, there was the pitter patter of tiny hooves.

TOM GIBBS: It was this - I turned up to work, was not expecting to find this baby bison, but lo and behold...

SIMON: Wild bouncing baby bison. You didn't know about the wild bison of Kent? Well, they've been in residence, or rather returned to their ancient roaming grounds, for about 2 1/2 months. Tom Gibbs is a ranger with the Kent Wildlife Trust, which is trying to replenish areas of the West Blean and Thornden Woods. But they were missing large grazing animals like wild cattle, red-tailed deer and elk. And the European bison is one of nature's great ecosystem engineers.

GIBBS: Imagine what an engineer does, and they build and they create. That's what the European bison does. They debark trees, so they slowly kill these trees off, which is great because we've got standing dead wood, which is amazing for bats and woodpeckers. They roll around in the dust, and that creates these lovely open patches of grass where you get these flowers and species that normally, it's too dark to grow.

SIMON: And then there's their - how to say this nicely over your morning cornflakes - dung. Ha - that's the word. Turns out that bison flop, if that's what they call it, is a nutrient elixir for the soil and full of seeds that attract smaller animals like bugs and birds.

GIBBS: Everything the bison do is shaping the world around them and creating more space and, you know, better homes for a lot of wildlife. As humans, we can't do that. You know, it's very hard to replicate that. The bison do it, and they're just being themselves.

SIMON: Wild bison haven't been themselves in England for centuries. So to establish its herd, the Kent Wildlife Trust got a female from Scotland and two more females from Ireland. It seems one of those female bison crossed the Irish Sea with a secret that came into the world on September 9.

GIBBS: It's like Christmas has come early. We're so fortunate to have her as an addition.

SIMON: The baby bison is the first wild bison born in England for 6,000 years. And Tom Gibbs says, Tom Jones style, she's got style. She's got grace.

GIBBS: She's quite cheeky. She - bit inquisitive. And she really loves, like, the rain. Often, when it's like a fine drizzle, she'll be running and sprinting around, and she'll jump up in the air like - almost like someone surprised her.

SIMON: Bison ranger Gibbs says he has truly enjoyed watching her with the other three females, and next year, we'll get to see how they all react when a new companion arrives - a bull.

GIBBS: So when he comes here, he's going to be a lucky man. He's got the lovely ladies that we already have here on site.

SIMON: Which means there soon may be more wild baby bison dancing in the rain, rubbing up against trees all over the West Blean and Thornden Woods in Kent. Give them a home where the bison all roam, (singing) where the elk and the deer also play, where seldom is heard a discouraging word and BJ Leiderman does our theme music from a pile of hay.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.