The Return of the Auroch
By Joelle Margolin, Esq., Vice President of HR and Legal
Part of Jaguar’s staff contribution series
The earliest cows – the Auroch – were mighty beasts that stood almost as tall as elephants, with lean, powerful frames and fearsome horns that would make a hunter think twice.
For thousands of years the Aurochs were the largest land mammals and most powerful herbivores in Europe, until the last of the species died in Poland in 1627—one of the first recorded cases of extinction.
Conservationists now believe the loss of the keystone herbivore was tragic for biodiversity in Europe, arguing that the Aurochs’ huge appetite for grazing provided a natural “gardening service” that maintained landscapes and created the conditions for other species to thrive.
Ecologist Ronald Goderie launched the Taurus program in 2008, seeking to address failing ecosystems. The grazer needed to be fully self-sufficient in case of big predators and could do the job of grazing big wild areas. Goderie chose a method known as back-breeding to create a substitute bovine he named “Tauros.” Auroch genes remain present in various breeds of cattle around the continent and geneticists advised breeding certain species together to produce offspring closer to the qualities of an Auroch, and then breed the offspring.
The animals get closer with each generation and it is likely that seven generations will be necessary for the desired outcome in 2025. The team have the advantage of being able to test the offspring’s DNA against the complete genome of an Auroch, which was successfully sequenced at University College Dublin.
The Tauros program is connected with Rewilding Europe an organization that provided protected land in Croatia, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Romania where the Tauros could test themselves in the wild and survive against predators. Herds of herbivores are habitually decimated by local wolves at the Croatian site, however the Tauros learned to defend themselves and suffered few losses.
Many European landscapes are in dire need of grazing animals because without grazing everything becomes forest, or barren land, which can become uninhabitable for other species.
Critics of rewilding initiatives have suggested that introducing new species could have unintended consequences. Questions of whether re-introduction of an extinct species could negatively impact wild or domestic plants or animals or if it might endanger people.
See also: The wild, extinct supercow returning to Europe, Kieron Monks, CNN Photo credit: Michal Köpping
Can you find and catch Tauros, the bovine Pokémon, outside of Europe?
|Classification||Wild Bull Pokemon|