tamaraw

Re:wilding Tamaraw

The Tamaraw is a dwarf wild buffalo only found on Mindoro Island in the Philippines. At a glance, a Tamaraw might be mistaken for a domestic buffalo, but its V-shaped horns, much smaller frame and feisty personality sets it apart. Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, there are only about 500 Tamaraw left on Mindoro. About 80% live in Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, and two other small populations – ranging around 50 and 12 individuals – live elsewhere on the island. Additional small populations may also survive. These numbers are a fraction of the Tamaraw’s historical population and without immediate help, these isolated subpopulations may go extinct within the next few decades.

Rangers on patrol in Mounts Iglit Baco National Park. (Photo by James Slade, Global Wildlife Conservation)

At the turn of the 20th century there were more than 10,000 Tamaraw living on Mindoro. Hunting, poaching, disease spread from domestic cattle, habitat destruction from non-sustainable land use – even invasive plants that the animals can’t eat – have dramatically reduced the population. And with females averaging just one offspring every two years, the species will need immediate and effective conservation efforts to survive.

Re:wild has helped develop an ambitious conservation plan in lockstep with numerous partners committed to restoring the Tamaraw across Mindoro. The bold vision behind The National Tamaraw Conservation Action Plan – created by a team of more than 70 conservationists, policymakers and Indigenous peoples – is as simple as it is ambitious: by the year 2050, the Tamaraw will thrive in rewilded habitats and in coexistence with Indigenous peoples across Mindoro.

Tamaraw (photo by Barney Long/Global Wildlife Conservation)

The Philippines’ National Tamaraw Conservation Action Plan is designed to protect and recover Tamaraw in Mindoro. Through the National Tamaraw Conservation Action plan, partners across Mindoro and international partners like Re:wild will strive to: 

  • locate and protect all the remaining populations of Tamaraw, helping them increase to viable numbers

  • end all Tamaraw poaching

  • work with cattle ranchers to prevent the spread of disease from domestic cattle

  • manage invasive species

  • work with local communities to manage their land in ways that mesh cultural needs with Tamaraw recovery

A Park that Recognizes Indigenous Lands 

Since the majority of wild Tamaraw live in Mounts Iglit-Baco, a Key Biodiversity Area, any effort to save them also needs to protect that area as well. In 2018, the government of the Philippines designated Mounts Iglit-Baco a Natural Park, and committed to protect its rich biodiversity by creating a comprehensive management plan. 

SMART training in Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park, 2019 (Photo by James Slade, Global Wildlife Conservation).

The park is not only home to Tamaraw, it also overlaps with the territories of two Indigenous peoples, the Buhid and Tau-Buid. Both tribes are part of the eight ethnolinguistic groups that make up the Mangyan indigenous people of Mindoro, and representatives from these Indigenous groups are instrumental in designing a long-term strategy for the park and the Tamaraw.

Re:wild has joined forces with local government agencies, leadership from Indigenous communities, D’Aboville Foundation, the administration of the Natural Park, the government’s Tamaraw Conservation Program, MBCFI, the IUCN SSC Asian Cattle Specialist Group and other local groups to develop a 10-year protected area management plan for Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park. The plan launched in 2019 and takes a holistic approach to:

  • save the Tamaraw in the wild, 

  • integrate the cultural and developmental needs of the Indigenous people into the management of Mounts Iglit-Baco 

  • address the non-sustainable use of natural resources in the region

Photos by James Slade while on a SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) training field trip to the Philippines. James was mostly working with rangers and teaching them how to use a data collection device for field work.

As part of the plan, Re:wild and its partners are helping the Tau-Buid people receive official recognition of their ancestral lands, which will ensure that they are permanently included in any strategy to protect Mounts Iglit-Baco. The plan provides a rational framework for managing and monitoring the park focusing on conservation, land use, Indigenous communities, wildlife crime prevention, tourism and awareness.

In 2020, Re:wild and its partners in the Philippines received a prestigious Darwin Initiative grant to support the protected area management office for Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s Tamaraw Conservation Program. The grant will help implement the comprehensive plan that will result in the Tau-Buid co-managing the park and the remaining Tamaraw stay protected.

Wild Facts

  • In addition to Tamaraw, numerous species live only on the island and nowhere else in the world, including the Mindoro Imperial-Pigeon, Mindoro Bleeding Heart and Oliver’s Warty Pig.

  • October is Tamaraw month in Mindoro. It is celebrated with colorful events, fun runs, biodiversity camps for students and more!

  • Tamaraw are also a source of tremendous national pride, appearing on national currency and postage stamps, and even serving as the Far Eastern University mascot.

  • Mounts Iglit-Baco is a Key Biodiversity Area.

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Solutions

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the interrelated crises of wildlife extinctions, climate change and pandemics. Re:wild works with local and Indigenous communities, conservation partners, governments and others to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Our Tamaraw conservation approaches include any combination of the following solutions:

Protected Area Creation

Identifying and prioritizing wildlands in need of increased protection status, including establishing new protected and conserved areas, Indigenous-managed territories, and private protected areas in these places.

protected area management

Improving the way protected and conserved areas are managed—involving communities, Indigenous peoples, sociology, economics, business management, and wildlife crime prevention—to ensure a safer future for biodiversity and local communities.

Ecosystem Restoration

Supporting extensive native habitat restoration, such as reforestation, that assists in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, but that can rebound and rewild with a little help.

wildlife crime prevention

Developing community-led and owned prevention strategies that take into account the societal and cultural drivers of wildlife crime, and implementing systems and technology to stop poachers before a crime is even committed.

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conservation breeding, translocations and reintroductions

Creating insurance populations to prevent extinction and active management of wildlife populations to help restore them to healthy and self-sustainable numbers across their natural range.

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Partnering with Indigenous Peoples

Incorporating Indigenous knowledge, practices and values to support Indigenous peoples in protecting and managing their lands and natural resources.

Population:

About 220-300

IUCN Red List Status

Critically Endangered

Population trend:

Decreasing

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