The tamaraw, an endangered Buffalo species, is widely considered the Philippines’ national land animal. It has been enshrined in our culture through its appearance on the Peso coin and its name being used for basketball teams and public transport. Despite its popularity, the species itself lacks actual support when it comes to conservation efforts. Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap and Martin San Diego, a writer and photographer, has illustrated the danger the Tamaraw now experiences in their article for Vice.
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An animal endemic to Mindoro island, they are distinguishable from other water buffalos by its smaller size, V-shaped horns, and markings on its face. They can only be found in the grasslands of Mindoro and are currently experiencing a decline in population.
Image from Barney Long / Global Wildlife Conservation
Despite the best efforts of the Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP), a government-driven project, a “significant slump” in their population was reported in the most recent count. At the completion of 2019’s population in April, TCP finalized their tally of 480 tamaraws left. That number is an 8% decrease from 2018’s 523 tamaraws.
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The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed them as ‘critically endangered’. They are highly vulnerable to hunting and habitat loss at the hands of humans. Tamaraw rangers, who are charged with ensuring the tamaraw’s safety, are ill-equipped against the likes of poachers. They are underfunded and are forced to defend them with broken equipment and even firecrackers. While the area the tamaraws roam is frequently subjected to kaingin or slash-and-burn farming.
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Tens of thousands of tamaraws once called Mindoro their home. That number has drastically fallen to a fraction of it. While the government has forwarded initiatives to address this, it hasn’t been enough. Better funding and better support must be pushed for.
What do you think we can do to push the issue of endangered species?