The director of a Valencia regional park has been charged with negligence in a big twist over two male bison that were beheaded after being brought over to Spain last year as part of a bison reintroduction programme funded by the European Union.

Carlos Álamo, the director of Valdeserrillas Nature Park, is said to have contributed to the animals starving to death, after postmortems were performed, which suggested their beheading were carried out as a distraction for their real cause of death.

The headless corpse of Sauron, the 660-kilo alpha male of the herd was found in the park in mid-September followed a week later by the discovery of a second headless animal. Initially investigators suggested that the animals had been poisoned before their heads were cut off with an axe by trophy hunters, after poison pellets were discovered.

Álamo is now facing charges of having beheaded the animals himself to cover up the fact that they had died of malnutrition. The owners of the reserve planned to introduce female bison to the site later this year to allow the herd to reproduce, a project that has now been shelved.

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