Although the carabao (Philippine water buffalo) is considered to be the national animal of the Philippines – in an informal and traditional manner of speaking due to no legal basis – there is also some honor extended to its smaller cousin in the country. On the island of Mindoro there still lives the dwarf buffalo called the tamaraw. Easily identified by its near V-shaped horns, the solitary and reputedly fierce tamaraw has been driven to near extinction by human habitation and poaching, only occasionally seen in isolated grassy plains. But now, sightings of the buffalo have been made at a Mindoro wildlife sanctuary, nearly three decades since they were last spotted there.
Inquirer.ph reports that observers from a locally-based conservation NGO in Mindoro have recorded the presence of the tamaraw within the territory of the Mt. Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary (MCWS), which is located near the municipality of Paluan in the province of Occidental Mindoro. According to Conservation Awareness Raising and Education (CARE) program manager Kathy Lene Cielo, signs of grazing, bovine dung and tracks inside the MCWS points to no less than four or seven tamaraw. CARE is a subsidiary of the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (MBCFI), which recently held a Tamaraw Expedition in the wildlife sanctuary last week, June 16-21.
Said expedition was a joint operation between the MBCFI, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Occidental Mindoro Office and the national Tamaraw Consrvation Program, D’Aboville Foundation and the MCWS Protected Area Office. Their happening upon the signs of tamaraw presence indicates that the reclusive animals are once again roaming in the sanctuary after they were last documented by sight there in 1992, or 37 years ago. Visual confirmation of the tamaraw in the MCWS was made of one animal, identified as a male juvenile (not yet adult), located near the summit of Mt. Calavite.
There are several factors on why the tamaraw is critically endangered outside human threats. First, their social behavior of not forming herds (outside of juvenile groups) means they rarely interact with each other outside of mating. Second, the gestation period for tamaraw birth is around 300 days or almost a year meaning new young are slow in coming into the world. The species is highly reliant on conservation efforts such as the MBCFI to help safeguard it from being poached, as well as keep them from being disturbed in either the sanctuaries or the wild.
Kahy Cielo sees good prospects in the return of the tamaraw to around Mt. Calavite. “This means the number of tamaraws can still increase,” she explains. “We just need stricter guarding of the protected area.”
Image courtesy of GMA Network