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Bison, beavers are making a comeback, says new European report

A new report released Thursday describes the success stories of some 18 mammal and 19 bird species that have made comebacks in Europe.

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A newborn bison stands next to its mother at their enclosure in the zoo in Berlin. Bison have made a major comeback since being hunted almost to extinction around 100 years ago, according to a new report on Europe's conservation success stories.

Michael Sohn/AP

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A new report released Thursday describes the success tales of some 18 mammal and 19 bird species that have made comebacks in Europe.

The paper, a collaborative project from the Zoological Society of London, BirdLife International, and the European Bird Census Council, provides a comprehensive overview of the status of selected European species that have resurged across the continent since about 1960. The goal, the scientists say, is to identify which conservationist strategies have worked, and why.

“Wildlife will fairly quickly bounce back if we allow it to – this report shows that,” writes Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, in the paper. Rewilding Europe, a Dutch conservationist group, commissioned the report in 2011.

The authors of the report caution that, on the whole, we are still living in an age of extinctions. Europe’s biodiversity is decreasing. But the authors say that highlighting conservationism’s success, and assessing just how and why certain efforts worked, is a productive step in future conservation efforts. Doing so, they say, supplies possible templates for what might herald eventual good news, too, for Europe’s still-threatened animals.

The beaver is Europe’s greatest success tale, at least by number. The buck-toothed rodent has rebounded from just 1,200 individuals as of about 1900 – most of the animals had been turned into pelts and caps – to about 337,500 individuals this year, according to the report. The Eurasian beaver, the second largest rodent in the world (after the capybara), builds the all-important natural dams that keep the Continent’s water ecosystems in good health, as well as furnishes a small but lucrative swath of the European tourism sector.

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