The Tamaraw: Mindoro's endangered treasure
Only 369 heads in the 1980's
Range: Found only in Mindoro.
The Philippine 'tamaraw' is a small buffalo and is the largest endangered land animal here in the Philippines. It is slightly smaller than the carabao but closely resembling the carabao in all aspects. Its horns grow straight upwards with a "V" form instead of a circular growth as in carabao horn.
It feeds mainly on grasses of various species but cogon grass is most preferred.
The Philippine 'tamaraw' is endangered because of habitat loss and alterations. Over-hunting and collection for trophies have also taken their toll on the 'tamaraw'.
In 19th century, the island of Mindoro, heavily forested and long avoided, because of an especially virulent strain of malaria, was called 'the dark island' by many outsiders. Although it is not far from Manila, it was poorly known in many respects, especially its Fauna and flora.
In 1998, the scientific community was startled by the discovery on the Mindoro rainforest, of the dwarf buffalo, now better known as the 'tamaraw' ( bubalus mindorensis).
One of the most distinctive an seriously endangered mammals in the world the 'tamaraw' of Mindoro island, probably numbers fewer than two hundreds individuals.
Hunting by the local people is a treat to all large mammals in ecoregions, including the 'tamaraw', philippine deer, and Philippine warty pig (sus philippensis), 'babuy damo' as called by the locals. Forestry activities and kaingin (slash-and-burn) agriculture continued to fragment and destroy the remaining habitat.
by Art Fuentes
Apart from the Philippine eagle, perhaps there is only one other animal that can best symbolize the mass extinction of species that is happening here in the Philippines—the Tamaraw. Once found in the thousands in the island of Mindoro in the early 1900s, it is estimated that fewer than 300 survive today.
The reasons for the dramatic decline in the Tamaraw’s population are many. The three most notable factors which led to it are:1. the introduction of cattle into Mindoro in the early 1900s
2. rampant hunting of the species and
3. the widespread logging that destroyed much of Mindoro’s forests where the Tamaraws live.
In the 1930s, there was an outbreak of the deadly rinderpest disease among the cattle herds in Mindoro. The rinderpest plague eventually spread to the Tamaraws and caused thousands of deaths among them. When the plague subsided, less than a thousand Tamaraws were left.
In the 1960s and 70s, hunters with automatic weapons flew to Mindoro from Manila to hunt Tamaraws for sport.
The Tamaraw extinction was further exacerbated by the rampant destruction of Mindoro’s forests—the natural habitat of the animals. In the 1900s Mindoro had a forest cover of over 80%. By 1988, this was down to around 8%. It was no coincidence that the dramatic decline of Mindoro’s forests was accompanied by the dramatic decline of Tamaraw population.
But the Tamaraw has survived; and with our help it may even thrive. Various efforts are under way to help the Tamaraw regain a healthy population, the most important of which is the restoration of its devastated habitat.
The 'tamaraw' or the dwarf water buffalo, is known to live for about 20 years with an estimate lifespan of about 25 years. the adult female 'tamaraw' give birth to one offspring after a gestation period of about 300 days. there is an interbirth interval of two years, although a female has been sighted with three juveniles. the calf stays for 2-4 years with its mother and then goes on its own.
The largest protected area in Mindoro is Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park, which is one of two ASEAN 'Natural Heritage Sites' in the Philippines, (the other is Mt. Apo National Park on Mindanao island).