The proud mother bison keeps a beady eye on any visitors who approach too close to the fence. She’s calved and is protecting a pair of youngsters – two of many to have been born here in the fen. Originally, European bison were found virtually all over Europe. But after the First World War, they were almost completely wiped out. All the European bison alive today can be traced back to just twelve surviving animals in zoos. It took a great deal of intense effort to preserve the species. There is an association specially dedicated to the purpose here in the Donaumoos – called the “Donaumooszweckverband“. With some thirty cows, calves and bulls, it operates Southern Germany’s largest conservation programme for the European bison.
The fact that the animals live here is linked to the future of the Donaumoos. After many attempts to “tame” the fen, people have realised that – if they want to preserve their local region -- they need a different approach to the natural fenland environment than their ancestors had. They have to prevent any further shrinkage of the peatland on which they live.
One option is grassland management with grazing, which permits a higher water table than crop growing. That would allow the entire peatland to be kept wet all year round. Hence our decision to surround the Haus im Moos with meadows, where cattle and sheep live side by side with our European bison.
Throughout Europe, these archaic looking beasts, with their dense coats, symbolise low intensity farming in harmony with nature. As resistant to being tamed as the fen itself, they behave just as they would if they were living in a wild herd.
That brings us to the end of our tour of the history of the Donaumoos fen, so it’s time to say goodbye. We hope you’ve enjoyed your visit – and have grown as fond of this very special landscape as the people who are working to preserve it for the future.
If you’re feeling in need of some refreshment after all that, the museum restaurant is open and looking forward to your visit.