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First-ever genetics studies of the Lithuanian buffalo completed

2015-09-08

The buffaloes roaming freely in Lithuania offer small genetic variety; only two different genotypes are present. This is the conclusion draws by the scientists of Vytautas Magnus University, having completed genetic studies of buffaloes in Lithuania for the first time ever, based on an assignment by the Ministry of the Environment.

Study material was gathered both in Kėdainiai district (72 buffaloes at large) and Panevėžys district (29 buffaloes at large). The buffaloes were used for samples for hair and excrements, blood samples, while dead buffaloes were used for samples of muscles.

Genetic studies of buffalo will contribute to the protection of individual buffaloes forming a herd roaming free, while individual genetic characteristic of each buffalo will lead to successful formation of herds, as the buffaloes are moved to pens. The scientists suggest forming herds in pens using buffaloes with different genotype, in order to prevent related cross-breeding.

Although buffalo is a local species, it offers a unique history. Although buffalo were common in XV to XVI centuries in local woods, they later went extinct, just as across Europe, except for Belovezh Wood. Back in 1969, after 200 years after buffaloes going extinct in Lithuania, there were two of these animals brought from Russia and placed in a pen of Pašiliai forest in Panevėžys district. In 1971, a baby buffalo Girinis was born in captivity, thus starting a new genetic line of Lithuanian buffalo.

The herd of buffalo roaming free across the country dates back 1973, when the first buffalo born in captivity escaped. In the period of 1981 to 1984, as the enclosures were reconstructed by replacing rotten wooden ones with a mesh wire, all of the buffaloes found there were released and spent approx. 4 years roaming free. Once the reconstruction was complete, the animals were brought back, however certain animals escaped.

A herd at large poses problems in that Kėdainiai and Panevėžys district, where the herd was formed, offer very little wooden areas, and buffaloes travel from one forest to another crossing the fields. On their way, they destroy the crops and cause other damage to the farmers. This free roaming herd was brought about by the errors of their protection, and which must now be eliminated.

An aviary of 50 ha for buffaloes at a zoo of Telšiai forestry enterprise is now almost complete; the relocation of the first beasts is scheduled from a herd roaming free in Panevėžys and Kėdainiai districts. This is the first step in dealing with issues posed by a herd formed sporadically. Another pen for these wild animals should be installed in Dzūkijos National Park, in the vicinity of Zervynos. It will have a larger area of some 100 ha. Once the adaptation is complete, the buffaloes will be released from their pens.

Relocation of the wild buffaloes to the pens located in both Žemaitija and Dzūkija is included in a plan for buffalo protection, approved by Kęstutis Trečiokas, Ministry for the Environment, in October 2014, and drafted by the scientists from Aleksandras Stulginskis University. The implementation of the plan will rely on the EU funding.

Public Information Division
08/09/2015

Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas
Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas