Ten thousand mighty tamaraw buffalo (Bubalus mindorensis) once grazed the mountain slopes of Mindoro Island in the Philippines. However, these dwarf buffalo are now classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with fewer than 300 individuals remaining on the small island to which they are wholly endemic. Yet hope remains for the tamaraw: an enormous effort has been mounted to revive this iconic species and to protect its unique island habitat.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines) has joined top academic institution Far Eastern University (FEU), alongside well-established environmental groups in Mindoro, with the goal of doubling the wild tamaraw population from 300 to 600 by 2020.
Illustration of the tamaraw. For photos of the tamaraw: Arkive: tamaraw.
Considered a national symbol in the Philippines, the tamaraw is the largest native terrestrial mammal to Mindoro. That said, it is relatively small when compared to other buffalo species and is considered a dwarf buffalo, standing only a meter tall (3.2 feet) and weighing between 200-300 kilograms (440-660 pounds) when fully grown. The tamaraw is dark brown with light markings on the belly. These markings are also found over its eyes, creating the effect of eyebrows. They have short, thick horns, which form a distinctive V-shape. Tamaraw are nocturnal in nature, though it is speculated that this is likely the result of adaptation to human disturbance. Decades of trophy hunting, land clearing for agriculture and an outbreak of the viral disease Rinderpest in the 1930s have had a devastating impact on the tamaraw population.
“Ultimately, our engagement will revitalize key mountain habitats in Occidental Mindoro, with the tamaraw as its conservation icon,” said WWF-Philippines Vice-Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan in a press release. “Healthy peaks and forests translate to a better-managed source of water so essential for the vast rice lands of this island’s western floodplains, while healthy reefs generate vast amounts of protein. Our goal is two-fold—to double the number of wild tamaraw by 2020—and to ensure that the ridges and reefs of Mindoro remain productive to adequately provide for its people in a climate-defined future.”
The island of Mindoro is one of seven distinct bio-geographical zones in the Philippines and supports the productive ecosystems of the Iglit-Baco mountain range and Apo Reef. The comprehensive tamaraw conservation effort brings together long-standing tamaraw research; ongoing efforts to protect the Apo Reef and other marine riches; and improved oversight and regulations for parks and public land use.
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