Import and keep of bovid species – consequences for Norwegian biodiversity


Report no: 2012:20

Published: 17.12.2021

Key message:

There is low risk of negative effects on Norwegian biological diversity resulting from the import and keep of yak, water buffalo and American- and European bison, when kept at low to intermediate population densities.

Thus concludes of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM), in a risk assessment commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency.

Among the four species, yak and water buffalo have been domesticated. Like other large-bodied species, they have high survival and low reproduction rates, which limits their population growth.


VKM has used a semi-quantitative method to assess the risk of negative effects on biological diversity resulting from import and keep of the four cattle species.

VKM has identified five possible hazards: animals escaping and establishing wild populations, negative effects from grazing in general, and on red-listed species in particular, competition with other wild herbivores, and interaction with predators.

VKM has characterized possible negative effects and assessed the probability of their occurrence.

VKM has also assessed the risk of the spread of disease-causing pathogens resulting from keep of the four cattle species.


”If the population density of these cattle species is higher than what is normal for livestock kept outdoors, their grazing can have negative effects, both directly and indirectly,” points out Erlend Nilsen, Chair of the project group.

In assessing the risk of disease-causing organisms, VKM has concluded that six species of disease-causing organisms pose a low risk and 13 pose a moderate risk to biological diversity. The 13 include viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

“Again, the premise is that the population density of the cattle species is low to intermediate,” explains Nilsen. “It is also a prerequisite that the imported animals stem from populations that the World Animal Health Organization monitors for disease and are declared free from disease-causing organisms,” Nilsen continues.

The risk assessment has been approved by VKM's Panel on Alien Organisms and Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Project group

The VKM project group consisted of:

Erlend Nilsen - Member, VKM Panel on Alien Organisms and Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Chair of the project 

Bjørnar Ytrehus - Member, VKM Panel on Microbial Ecology 

Tor Gjøen - Member, VKM Panel on Animal Health and Welfare 

Gunnar Austrheim Pdf, 57.2 kB, opens in new window. - External expert, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) 

Martin Malstrøm - Senior advisor and project manager, VKM Secretariat 

Kjersti S. Kvie - Senior advisor and project manager, VKM Secretariat 


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Martin Malmstrøm

Prosjektleder, ph.d.

M: 92 42 43 13
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