Bison are considered a keystone species: they once roamed the continent in great herds, and their grazing pressure helped shape the ecology of the Great Plains. More than that, they were crucial to Plains Indian societies. Historically, bison numbered an estimated 20-30 million. Unregulated shooting of bison, which culminated in mass slaughters during the 1870s, reduced the population to 1,091 in 1889. Today, approximately 500,000 bison live across North America.
Join us tonight as we learn the history of the American Bison, as well as the current conservation efforts in place for one of America’s most iconic animals.
Dr. Thomas has been with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx (WCS) Zoo’s Mammal Department since 1979. He is currently the general curator and is responsible for supervising the care and management of over 4,000 animals from nearly 500 species. Thomas has worked on field projects throughout the world. Within the past five years he has worked in South Africa, where he developed techniques to non-invasively collect hair samples from lions, leopards and cheetahs for DNA analyses, and in South America where he has been working to evaluate the short-and long-term effects of live-shearing guanacos for their wool, which is being tried as a conservation strategy. He has also traveled extensively for WCS, leading a team to bring back an orphaned snow leopard cub from the Himalayas of Pakistan, to consult with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Uganda Wildlife Education Center on the redesign of their captive animal facilities in Nairobi and Entebbe, and to lead numerous WCS Members’ tours to southern Africa.