Three male and three female Bronx Zoo-born American bison (commonly called buffalo) have been transferred to the Osage Nation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. They joined the nearly 200 bison that make up the resident Osage herd on their 43,000-acre ranch and will bolster the genetic diversity in the Osage herd.
This move is a significant step in a new partnership between the Bronx Zoo and the Osage Nation. It is the culmination of years of work on an important conservation program that had its beginnings more than a century ago when the American bison faced extinction and the U.S. bison population numbered fewer than 1,000 animals.
Bronx Zoo officials were on site with Osage Nation leadership at the successful culmination of the project when the Bronx Zoo bison were introduced to the resident herd on the Osage Reservation.
“The transfer of Bronx Zoo bison to the Osage Nation is a win-win,” said Dr. Patrick Thomas, the Bronx Zoo’s Associate Director and General Curator, who initiated and oversaw the zoo’s role in the project. “The Osage again have a species of cultural importance grazing on their ancestral land; the zoo’s bison get to play an integral role in a significant conservation program; and the tallgrass prairie ecosystem benefits by having bison on it, thereby shaping the composition of the vegetation and animal communities.”
Said Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation: “The return of the bison holds great significance to Osage people. Bison are not only a mark of our past; they are a symbol of our future. With the great success of our surface reservation growth through land purchases, we now have a home for bison to continue their resurgence. On behalf of the Osage Nation, I would like to express gratitude to the Bronx Zoo for its conservation efforts and programs that contribute to the growth and diversification of our herd.”