Valencia bison starved to death before being decapitated

Vet report adds new twist to the investigation; preserve director is charged with animal abuse

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

An investigation into the death of two bison at a nature preserve in the Valencia region has taken a new turn.

After initially investigating whether the herd may have been deliberately poisoned by unknown attackers who also cut off the animals’ heads, Spanish prosecutors have now charged the preserve director with animal abuse on suspicion that the bison starved to death.

The second animal’s head simply decomposed on its own, the vet report states

Valdeserrillas preserve director Carlos Álamo walked into court on Tuesday to provide a statement as a suspect in the case.

Veterinary reports released on Monday state that the animals died from lack of food and were later decapitated.

They were part of a herd of European bison that lived inside the animal sanctuary in Benagéber (Valencia).

In mid-September, the herd leader, an 800-kilogram alpha male named Sauron, was found dead on the premises. Its head was missing.

A second decapitated bison was located a week later. Two more animals reported missing were found alive.

Investigators found a ball that may have contained poison, which was said to be a possible explanation for why the rest of the herd was suffering from diarrhea.

But authorities now suspect Álamo himself or an accomplice may have planted the ball of poison and beheaded the animals in order to simulate an attack by hunters seeking trophies.

The government delegate in the Valencia region, Juan Carlos Moragues, said that the bison “did not have enough food” and that they were beheaded after death.

One of the decapitations was a botched axe job “that anybody could have done,” suggesting that the head was not taken away for purposes of mounting and displaying, as was initially suspected.

The second animal’s head simply decomposed on its own, the vet report states.

Sources at the Valencia government confirmed that the first line of investigation, regarding the possibility of poison, is still open despite the new report.

The Valdeserrillas preserve, which spans 365 hectares, is located on public land owned by the Valencia government and run by a private company on a 20-year lease. It serves as a sanctuary for bison and other species including deer, mouflon and birds of prey, and offers tourists photo safaris.

The herd of Bison Bonasus, considered an endangered species, arrived in Spain between June 2015 and May 2016 after two years’ worth of paperwork with the European Union.

English version by Susana Urra.

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