Marco Evers at Der Spiegel: European Bison Return to Wild in Germany

Since he hit upon the idea almost a decade ago, Prince Richard has been at the center of Germany’s most interesting experiment in species conservation. Now the project, which receives about €1.5 million ($2 million) in government subsidies, is about to enter its critical phase.

The state Environment Ministry in Düsseldorf issued its approval shortly before Christmas, and over the next few days several men will drive into the forest and remove the fence around an acclimation enclosure in place since 2010. When that happens, a herd of eight European bison, or wisent, will be free to roam in the woods. It consists of an enormous bull, five cows and two calves.

But it will be some time before they have explored the expanse of the entire forest. Like most of the wild game, the wisents are fed grass silage at this time of the year, which makes them somewhat lethargic. They will be more interested in feeding before enjoying their newfound freedom.