We Only Have 480 Tamaraw Left

A recent report by the Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) estimated that the tamaraw population has slumped to 480—an eight percent decrease from last year’s official count of 523. During a survey earlier this year at the Mount Iglit-Baco Natural Park (an ASEAN Heritage Park that’s home to a majority of the remaining tamaraws), volunteers also observed a slaughtered animal carcass, bamboo platforms for drying bushmeat, and large areas destroyed by kaingin (slash-and-burn farming).

Despite being one of the country’s flagship fauna, their numbers scramble to recover. Tamaraws, a critically endangered dwarf buffalo found only on Mindoro island, are continually threatened by poaching and habitat loss.

Tamaraw 101

The tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) can be distinguished from the carabao or domestic water buffalo by their smaller size, v-shaped horns and feisty nature.

It’s so well-known that you can see traces of the elusive animal in everyday life:

  • It’s been featured on Philippine stamps and coins.
  • It’s been an inspiration to several local highlights, including sports teams and a widely-used multipurpose vehicle—the Tamaraw FX

Conservation efforts

Around 10,000 tamaraws once thrived across Mindoro before rampant hunting, cattle disease and logging nearly drove them to extinction. By the 1960s, only around 100 animals remained. A captive breeding program was launched in 1982, but only successfully produced one offspring that reached maturity.

Conservation efforts are now focused on the on-site protection of wild populations at the 1,600-hectare core habitat of Iglit-Baco, as well as Mount Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary, where a juvenile tamaraw has been sighted again in June—a first in 27 years. A legislative bill is also currently being passed to declare the tamaraw as the national land animal.

Iglit-Baco is patrolled by only 15 tamaraw rangers, who seem ill-equipped due to insufficient funding. Despite a number of setbacks, TCP remains committed to tamaraw conservation with the help of non-profits and volunteers, in the hopes that more people will join the fight for their survival.

Tamaraws need your help

Here are ways you can be an eco-warrior and help save the tamaraw:

  • Go tamaraw watching at Mounts Iglit-Baco with an off-duty tamaraw ranger. Arrange a visit through the park office in San Jose and hire a guide through TCP at least three days in advance. tamarawconservationprogram.mdo@gmail.com; +639178868836
  • Sponsor a tamaraw ranger through the Support-A-Ranger program of Eco Explorations, a non-profit which also organizes immersive conservation-focused tours that directly help the Tamaraw Conservation Program. ecoexplorationsph.com
  • Donate to D’Aboville Foundation, a French-Filipino non-profit that has been running the Mangyan-Tamaraw Driven Landscape Program since 2012. dabovillefoundation.org
  • Share this article to raise awareness on the urgent plight of the tamaraw!

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Cebu Pacific flies to San Jose, Mindoro from Manila and Cebu. cebupacificair.com

Written by

Edgar Alan Zeta Yap

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