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WILDLIFE CRIMES

Second headless bison found inside Spanish animal sanctuary

Investigators confirm that the herd leader’s head was hacked off with an axe

A male bison named Sauron was found decapitated in Valdeserrillas (Valencia).
A male bison named Sauron was found decapitated in Valdeserrillas (Valencia).

A second decapitated bison has been located on a Spanish nature preserve where the headless body of the herd leader turned up a week ago.

Two more specimens of European bison, an endangered species, have been found alive after going missing last week.

Reserve employees have announced that the intoxicated animals are “getting better”

The Civil Guard is investigating what appears to be an attack against the animal sanctuary of Valdeserrillas, a 365-hectare reserve located in the province of Valencia.

Earlier this week, investigators found a ball that may have contained poison, which could explain why the rest of the herd has been suffering from diarrhea for days.

The government delegate in the Valencia region has confirmed to EL PAÍS that Sauron, the leader of the nine-bull herd, had his head hacked off with an ax – a time-consuming method considering that the animal weighed around 800 kilograms.

Reserve employees said that the intoxicated animals are “getting better” and receiving vitamin supplements to increase their weight with a view to the fall and winter weather.

The main line of investigation is that one or several individuals placed poison inside the animals’ feed trough. Since the alpha male was always the first to eat, and ingested the largest amounts of food, he may have felt the effects first, either dying or becoming weak enough to be safely approached and killed. Rodolfo Navarro, an official at the reserve, said that bison react aggressively when they feel threatened.

The Valdeserrillas reserve is located on public land owned by the regional government of Valencia, not far from the borders with the provinces of Teruel and Cuenca. It is run by a private group that secured a 20-year operating license. Sources at the preserve told this newspaper that local hunters were disgruntled when the preserve was created and hunting prohibited within its boundaries.

The 365 hectares of pristine land include 22 kilometers of roads, but there are forested areas where vehicles cannot enter, which delayed the search for the missing animals.

The reserve has been open to the public since 2011, and besides the herd of European bison also contains American bison (buffalo), horses, donkeys and deer. The first European bison arrived here in mid-2015.

English version by Susana Urra.

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