True Nature Foundation starts international project to bring back the aurochs
Uruz is the old Germanic word for Aurochs and seems fit for a project that has the goal to recreate the mighty wild cattle that roamed throughout Europe until four centuries ago. Chairman Henri Kerkdijk-Otten has co-initiated and steered a similar project previously, but left that project because he believes that there is a more direct path towards the Aurochs. The ultimate goal is to create a cattle breed that resembles the Aurochs in every aspect; appearance, behavior and even genetics.
The Aurochs genome has been completely reconstructed and will serve as the baseline for the reconstruction of the Aurochs. The DNA will be studied, to see how characteristics of the animal are coded. The same DNA will provide information about how big and how variable Aurochs populations were.
Aurochs DNA data will also be used to guide the breeding process and change certain aspects of present day cattle DNA by means of so-called genome editing. Genome editing is a completely new field of science and will save generations of breeding, it will reduce unwanted traits and it will eliminate wrong genes, so they cannot return in later generations.
The Project will reduce the amount of founder cattle breeds and only use those few selected, so-called primitive breeds which already have a strong resemblance to the Aurochs. “This means we can have Aurochs-like animals in just two generations with a minimum number of setbacks” explains Henri Kerkdijk-Otten.
The research needed is being performed by an international consortium of scientific institutes and organizations, representing the best top geneticists, ancient geneticists and molecular biologists.
Multiple nature organizations and other partners from Europe have gathered in the Uruz Project. Breeding herds will start this year in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland and Russia. Other countries will follow in the next years.
Ecological restoration projects, such as are being undertaken by the True Nature Foundation and their partners, cannot be complete without bringing back those key elements that help shape and reshape wild landscapes. One of the so called keystone animal species is the Aurochs, a large animal that has dominated the landscape until just a few centuries ago. The ultimate goal is to reintroduce the Aurochs in order to maintain and enhance the biodiversity and characteristics of natural ecosystems in Europe.
Large herds of Aurochs and other herbivores will also attract visitors and thus contribute to local communities in need of new economic opportunities for their area. In that way, the Aurochs will be a flagship species for nature restoration in Europe. Henri Kerkdijk-Otten summarizes "Let's bring back this lost icon of Europe".