Tamaraws are found only on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. Although fossil evidence suggests that they may also have occupied the island of Luzon. The current distribution is limited to the 9,375 km2 island of Mindoro. On Mindoro, they are further restricted to three game refuges covering about 200,000 ha. The refuges were created in 1969 by the Philippine Parks and Wildlife Office.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
- Custodio, C., M. Lepiten, L. Heaney. 1996. Bubalus mindorensis. Mammalian Species, 520: 1-5.
- Kuehn, D. 1976. Tamarao: Endangered buffalo of the Philippines. National Parks and Conservation Magazine, 50(3): 18-20.
- Kuehn, D. 1986. . Population and social characteristics of the tamarao (Bubalus mindorensis). Biotropica, 18(3): 263-266.
Tamaraws are distinguished from related buffalo by their smaller stature and straight horns. These characteristics (among others) led taxonomists to categorize these animals as a unique species, and not a sub-species of Asiatic water buffalo (B. bubalis). Total height at the shoulders is 106 cm. Head and body length is 220 cm, and tail length is 60 cm. Few reported weights are available in the literature. Those given are for females only and range from 180 to 300 kg. Horn shape can be used to determine the sex of skulls, with male horns being thicker, longer, flatter, and closer together than those of females. Horn length is 35 to 43 cm. The dental formula is 0/3, 0/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 32.
Adult pelage is dark brown or black, with no differences between sexes. Juvenile pelage is reddish-brown, with dark brown legs and a black dorsal line. Pelage turns slate colored at 3 to 4 years of age, and adult coloration is achieved at 5 years of age. Horn length and thickness can be used to age tamaraws in the field. As they mature, the horns grow longer relative to the length of the ears and broaden at the base.
Range mass: 180 to 300 kg.
Average length: 220 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes shaped differently; ornamentation
Habitat and Ecology
Tamaraw are largely solitary, although females occur with offspring (Talbot and Talbot 1966). Males and females occasionally associate temporarily throughout the year (Custodio et al. 1996), which is similar to other bovines species, such as African buffalo, banteng and gaur. The solitary nature of the species is probably an adaptation to forest habitats, where large groups would prove to be a hindrance (Eisenberg 1966, in Kuehn 1986). Tamaraw feed primarily on grasses, as well as young bamboo shoots, in open grasslands, resting within tall grasses or dense forest (Talbot and Talbot 1966). Although formerly diurnal, Tamaraw have become largely nocturnal due to human encroachment and disturbance (Talbot and Talbot 1966).
Before 1900, tamaraws were widely distributed throughout the island, inhabiting all elevations (0-2000 m) and all habitat types, including Mindoro's vast forests and less common wetlands, grasslands, riparian areas, and bamboo thickets. Human settlement in the early 20th century led to massive deforestation as the forests were converted to agricultural land. Currently, tamaraws inhabit Mindoro's abundant grasslands and secondary successional forests and can be found at 300 to 1000 m in elevation. Some researchers speculate that their preferred habitat is forest edge, providing access to forage, water, and cover.
Range elevation: 300 to 1000 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest
Tamaraws are herbivorous, feeding on grass species such as Cynodon arcuatus, Digitaria sanguinalis, Eleusine indica, Sorghum nitidum, Paspalum scrobilatum, Alloteropsis semialata, and Vetiveria zizanoides. During the rainy season they feed on shoots of bamboo (Schizostachyum spp.). The Batangans, a tribal group practicing slash-and-burn agriculture on Mindoro, frequently burn small plots for agriculture. Tamaraws often visit these newly burned locations to feed on grass shoots.
Plant Foods: leaves
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Given their current small population size, tamaraws are not likely to play a dominant role in the ecosystem processes of present-day Mindoro. The historical importance of tamaraws in the Mindoro ecosystem is unclear, although they may have influenced vegetation succession through their grazing and wallowing.
Tamaraws have no known native predators on Mindoro, and frequently fed in the open during daylight, suggesting little concern for predation. Humans are the only predator of tamaraws, and the development of Mindoro has also led to a more secretive and nocturnal lifestyle for tamaraws.
Life History and Behavior
Very little is known about communication in tamaraws. Aggression is expressed through head movements and adult bulls will occassionally communicate dominance by chasing subordinate males from food sources or potential mates. It is likely that tamaraws communicate also through some auditory and chemical cues. Most bovids have keen senses of smell and hearing, although their eyesight may be poor.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The only reported life expectancy for tamaraws in the literature is 20 years, but whether this is for a wild or captive animal is unclear.
Status: captivity: 28.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Little is known about mating systems of tamaraws in the wild. Males and females generally remain separate during most of the year, coming together only during breeding season. How mates are selected is unkown.
Bubalus mindorensis breeds during the dry season, from December to May. Gestation is 276 to 315 days, timed so that births occur during Mindoro's wet season (June to November), allowing the neonates access to a fresh, abundant food supply. Cows give birth to a single calf every two years. Young leave the mothers at the age of 2 to 4 years, meaning calves from several years may accompany a cow at one time. Limited evidence (a single observation) of a cow grazing 50 m from a newborn calf hiding in the grass suggests that young may behave as "hiders". Age of primiparity or sexual maturity is not given in the literature, but one source says they reach "adulthood" at 6 years of age.
Breeding interval: Tamaraw females breed every two years.
Breeding season: Tamaraws mate during Mindoro's dry season (December to May).
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 9.2 to 10.5 months.
Range time to independence: 24 to 48 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average number of offspring: 1.
Females nurse and care for their young, males do not provide parental care. Calves remain with their mothers for 2 to 4 years, although the extent of parental care provided during this period is unclear. Females stay with the mother longer than males. Tamaraws appear to behave as typical "hiders", although this hypothesis comes from a single observation of a female tamaraw feeding a short distance from her hidden calf.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents
- Custodio, C., M. Lepiten, L. Heaney. 1996. Bubalus mindorensis. Mammalian Species, 520: 1-5.
- Kuehn, D. 1986. . Population and social characteristics of the tamarao (Bubalus mindorensis). Biotropica, 18(3): 263-266.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2008Critically Endangered (CR)
- 2007Critically Endangered (CR)
- 2000Critically Endangered (CR)
- 1996Endangered (EN)
- 1994Endangered (E)
- 1990Endangered (E)
- 1988Endangered (E)
- 1986Endangered (E)
- 1965Status inadequately known-survey required or data sought
Tamaraws are listed as CR C1 (critically endangered with an observed decline of 80% over the last 10 years) by the IUCN and listed in Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Their numbers have declined from an estimated 10,000 in 1900 to approximately 20 to 200 individuals today, making this species one of the rarest mammals in the world. The population trend is continuing downwards. Major threats have included habitat loss and degradation due to agriculture, logging, and development, hunting and poaching, and disease. A rinderpest epidemic in 1930 was particularly devastating to the population. Tamaraws are protected under Philippine law, and several reserves have been created to maintain habitat for wild, free-ranging tamaraws. The Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group (AWCSG) of the IUCN listed habitat management, life-history research, limiting-factor research, and monitoring as the recommended research and management options for tamaraws.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered
- Heinen, J., S. Srikosamatara. 1996. Status and protection of Asian wild cattle and buffalo. Conservation Biology, 10(4): 931-934.
- IUCN. 2002. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line ). Accessed 9/30/02 at http://www.redlist.org/search/details.php?species=3127.
- Nowak, R., J. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, Volume 2. 4th edition. Baltimore, MD, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Date Listed: 12/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Bubalus mindorensis , see its USFWS Species Profile
Required research for this species includes an island wide population survey to determine if there are any additional extant populations. There is also a need for improved habitat conservation through effective management. In addition, the feasibility and need for a new captive breeding programme should be assessed.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known adverse affects of tamaraws on humans.
Tamaraws have been hunted for food and sport in the past, but these activities have been outlawed since 1936.
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material
The tamaraw or Mindoro dwarf buffalo (Bubalus mindorensis) is a small, hoofed mammal belonging to the family Bovidae. It is endemic to the island of Mindoro in the Philippines, and is the only endemic Philippine bovine. It is believed, however, to have once also thrived on the larger island of Luzon. The tamaraw was originally found all over Mindoro, from sea level up to the mountains (2000 meters above sea level), but because of human habitation, hunting, and logging, it is now restricted to only a few remote grassy plains and is now an endangered species.
Contrary to common belief and past classification, the tamaraw is not a subspecies of the local carabao, which is only slightly larger, or the common water buffalo. In contrast to the carabao, it has a number of distinguishing characteristics: it is slightly hairier, has light markings on its face, is not gregarious, and has shorter horns that are somewhat V-shaped. It is the largest native terrestrial mammal in the country.
- 1 Anatomy and morphology
- 2 Distribution
- 3 Ecology and life history
- 4 Behavioral ecology
- 5 Evolutionary history
- 6 Etymology and taxonomic history
- 7 Conservation
- 8 Importance to humans
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
Anatomy and morphology
Bubalus mindorensis has the appearance of a typical member of its family. It has a compact, heavyset, bovine body, four legs that end in cloven hooves and a small, horned head at the end of a short neck. It is smaller and stockier compared to the Asiatic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). There is little sexual dimorphism in the species although males are reported to have thicker necks. The tamaraw has an average shoulder height of 100–105 cm (39–41 in). The length of the body is 2.2 m (7.2 ft) while the tail adds a further 60 cm (24 in). Reported weights have ranged from 180 to 300 kg (400 to 660 lb).
Adults have a dark brown to grayish color and more hair than Bubalus bubalis. The limbs are short and stocky. White markings are seen in the hooves and the inner lower forelegs. These markings are similar to that of the anoa Bubalus depressicornis. The face is the same color as that of the body. Most of the members of the species also has a pair of gray-white strips that begins from the inner corner of the eye to the horns. The nose and lips have black skin. The ears are 13.5 centimeters long from notch to tip with white markings on the insides.
Both sexes grows short black horns in a V-shaped manner compared to C-shaped horns of Bubalus bubalis. The horns have flat surfaces and are triangular at their base. Due to the regular rubbing, the tamaraw's horns have a worn outer surface but with rough inner sides. The horns are reported to be 35.5 to 51.0 centimeters long.
The tamaraw was first documented in 1888 on the island of Mindoro. Before 1900, most people avoided settling on Mindoro due to a virulent strain of malaria. However as anti-malarial medicine was developed, more people settled on the island. The increase in human activity has drastically reduced tamaraw population. By 1966 the tamaraw's range was reduced to three areas: Mount Iglit, Mount Calavite and areas near the Sablayan Penal Settlement. By 2000, their range was further reduced to only two areas: the Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park and Aruyan.
Initial estimates of the Bubalus mindorensis population on Mindoro was placed at around 10,000 individuals in the early 1900s. Less than fifty years later in 1949, the population had dwindled to around a thousand individuals. By 1953, fewer than 250 animals were estimated to be alive. These population estimates continually grew smaller until the IUCN publication of their 1969 Red Data Book, where the tamaraw population was noted to be an alarmingly low 100 heads. This head count rose to 120 animals in 1975. Current estimates place the wild tamaraw population from thirty to two hundred individuals.
Ecology and life history
As a rare, endemic mammal on a relatively secluded island, the ecology of the tamaraw is largely unknown. Individuals of the species are reclusive and shy away from humans. In addition, the small sizes of the species' subpopulations, already spread thin throughout their fragmented range (on 1986, about 51 individuals are found in a 20 square kilometer area), make contact with any more than a solitary individual a rarity.
Bubalus mindorensis prefers tropical highland forested areas. It is typically found in thick brush, near open-canopied glades where it may graze and feed on grasses. Since human habitation and subsequent forest fragmentation of their home island of Mindoro, the habitat preferences of the tamaraw have somewhat expanded to lower-altitude grassy plains. Within their mountainous environment, tamaraws will usually be found not far from sources of water.
The tamaraw is a grazer that feeds on grasses and young bamboo shoots although it is known to prefer cogon and talahib (Saccharum spontaneum). They are naturally diurnal, feeding during the daytime hours; however, daytime human activities have recently forced select B. mindorensis individuals to be nocturnal to avoid human contact.
The tamaraw is known to live for about 20 years, with an estimated lifespan of about 25. The adult female tamaraw gives birth to one offspring after a gestation period of about 300 days. There is an interbirth interval of two years, although one female has been sighted with three juveniles. The calf stays for 2–4 years with its mother before becoming independent.
Unlike the closely related water buffalo, B. mindorensis is a solitary creature. Adults of the species do not occur in herds or smaller packs and are often encountered alone. Only juveniles exhibit the typical bovine herding behavior and clan hierarchy often seen in water buffalo. Males and females are known to associate all year round but this interaction lasts only a few hours. It has been suggested that this solitary behavior is an adaptation to its forest environment. Adult males are often solitary and apparently aggressive while adult females can be alone, accompanied by a bull, or three young of different ages.
Similar to other bovines, the tamaraw wallows in mud pits. It has been suggested that this behavior is employed by the animals in order to avoid biting insects.
Another distinct behavior in B. mindorensis is their fierceness. There are reports concerning their fierceness when cornered although most are unsubstantiated. Threat posture used by the bovine involves lowering of the head, shifting its horns into a vertical position. This is accompanied with a lateral shaking of the head.
The presence of B. mindorensis on the island of Mindoro, coupled with the discovery of fossil bubalids in other islands around the archipelago indicates that the family was once widespread throughout the Philippines. In fact, fossil finds in the 20th century have shown that B. mindorensis were once found on the northern Philippine island of Luzon during the Pleistocene Epoch.
As a member of the family Bovidae, the tamaraw's close affinity to the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) has been validated many times in the past. It was once considered a subspecies of B. bubalis (as Anoa bubalis), Anoa bubalis mindorensis. Recent genetic analysis studies of the family members further strengthen this view.
Etymology and taxonomic history
The tamaraw was originally described as Anoa mindorensis by the French zoologist Pierre Marie Heude in 1888. In 1958, it was described as Anoa bubalis mindorensis, a subspecies of the then-water buffalo species (Anoa bubalis). A little over a decade after, the tamaraw was elevated to species status as Anoa mindorensis in 1969.
Later research and analyses of relationships determined the genus Anoa to be a part of the genus Bubalus. The tamaraw's scientific name was updated into its present form, Bubalus mindorensis (sometimes referred to as Bubalus (Bubalus) mindorensis).
The name tamaraw has other variants like tamarau, tamarou and tamarao. It has been suggested that the term tamaraw came from tamadaw which is a probable alternative name for the Banteng (Bos javanicus).
Being an entirely endemic and rare land mammal, Bubalus mindorensis stands as an extremely vulnerable species. Currently, it is classified as a critically endangered species and has been so since 2000 by the IUCN on its IUCN Red List of endangered species. Awareness of the conservation status of Bubalus mindorensis began way back in 1965 when it was classified as Status inadequately known by the IUCN. Enough data was gathered on the tamaraw population by 1986, and the IUCN conservation monitoring center declared the species endangered. Throughout succeeding surveys conducted in 1988, 1990, 1994 and 1996, the species remained listed on the Red List as endangered. The relisting of the species in 1996 fulfilled the IUCN criteria B1+2c and D1. Criterion B1 indicated that the species' range was less than 500 square kilometers and is known to exist in less than five independent locations. A noticed continuing decline in the population fulfilled sub-criterion 2c, given the condition of the population's sole habitat. Criterion D1 essentially required that a population be composed of less than 250 mature individuals; individual counts of the B. mindorensis population at the time figured significantly lower than this. In 2000, the tamaraw was relisted on the Red List under the more severe C1 criteria. This was due to estimates that the population would decline by 20% in five years or within the timespan of two generations.
Many factors have contributed to the decline of the tamaraw population. Over the course of the century, the increase of the human population on Mindoro has exposed the island's sole tamaraw population to severe anthropogenic pressures. In the 1930s, the introduction of non-native cattle on the island caused a severe rinderpest epidemic among the tamaraw population then-numbering in the thousands. Hunting of tamaraws for food and sustenance has also taken a toll on the species' numbers. The most major factor threatening survival of B. mindorensis is habitat loss due to infrastructure development, logging and agriculture. These factors reduced the population of thousands during the early 1900s to less than 300 individuals in 2007.
Due to the decline of the B. mindorensis population, various Philippine laws and organizations have been created towards the conservation of the species. In 1936, Commonwealth Act No. 73 was enacted by the then-Philippine Commonwealth. The act specifically prohibited killing, hunting and even merely wounding tamaraws, with an exception noted for self-defense (if one were to be attacked by an agitated individual) or for scientific purposes. The penalties were harsh enough to include a hefty fine and imprisonment.
In 1979, an executive order was signed creating a committee specifically geared towards the conservation of the tamaraw. The tamaraw was referred to as a "source of national pride" in the said E.O. The Tamaraw Conservation Project was also established in 1979. The organization has successfully bred a tamaraw, nicknamed "Kali", in captivity in 1999. In 2001, Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act was enacted to protect the tamaraw and other endemic species from hunting and sale. During the 1970s, a gene pool was established to preserve the tamaraw's numbers. However, the project was not successful as only one offspring, named "Kali", was produced. As of 2011, Kali is the only surviving animal in the gene pooling project. The project was also not improved as the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau shown that the tamaraws were already breeding in the wild. Cloning was not implemented for conservation as the Department of Environment and Natural Resource argued that such measures would diminish the genetic diversity of the species.
As of May 2007, Bubalus mindorensis is on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species where it has been since the species was first put on the list on January 7, 1975. With the listing, CITES recognizes the species as critically endangered and threatened with extinction. Thus, international commercial trade in the species or any derivatives of which, such as the meat, horns or flesh is considered illegal. While commercial trade in the species is prohibited, exchange for non-commercial reasons such as scientific research is allowed.
In October 2008, the Department of Agriculture's Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC) director, Dr. Arnel del Barrio, officially reported that the tamaraw population had increased yearly by an average of 10% from 2001 to 2008. The April 2008 tamaraw expedition reports of the Tamaraw Conservation Program (Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro Occidental), by government and private entities, including Far Eastern University (FEU) students, revealed that "the tamaraw population was counted at 263 this year compared to only 175 heads in 2001. The calving rate estimated by number of yearlings is considerably high... (which could mean that) more than 55% of the tamaraws are giving birth. In Mount Iglit-Baco National Park, the official count of the animal was 263 in 2006, 239 in 2007 and 263 in 2008." Mindoro's indigenous Mangyan people have stopped slaughtering the animal for its blood.
The Haribon Foundation called the animal "Mindoro’s endangered treasure" and later "the Philippines’ endangered flagship species" until 2005. In the 1930s the tamaraw population declined due to rinderpest, a viral disease affecting cattle. In the 1960s and 1970s, hunters killed tamaraws for sport. More importantly, the rampant deforestation (from 80% habitat forest cover in the 1900s down to 8% in 1988) in the area hastened the animal's decline.
The Bangkok, Thailand International Union for the Conservation of Species (IUCS) has established a 280-hectare gene pool farm in Rizal, Mindoro Occidental. Also, extensive reforestation was implemented to hasten the tamaraws' propagation. The animals are now found only in the mountainous portions of Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park, Mt. Calavite, Mt. Halcon-Eagle Pass, Mt. Aruyan-Sablayan-Mapalad Valley, and Mt. Bansud-Bongabong-Mansalay.
Importance to humans
Economical and commercial value
While not as heavily exploited as other large, endangered mammals, the tamaraw population on Mindoro was subject to some harvesting pressure from subsistence hunters before conservation efforts were spurred towards the latter half of the 20th century. The IUCN has described this as still ongoing in their 2006 Red List report.
In Philippine culture
Though the national animal of the Philippines is the carabao, the tamaraw is also considered a national symbol of the Philippines. An image of the animal is found on the 1980-to-early-1990 version of the one-Peso coins.
In 2004, Proclamation No. 692 was enacted to make October 1 a special working holiday in the province of Occidental Mindoro. In line with the Tamaraw Conservation Month, the proclamation aimed to remind the people of Mindoro the importance of the conservation of the tamaraw and its environment.
In the 1970s Toyota Motors, through the defunct local company Delta Motors, built the Tamaraw AUV (Asian Utility Vehicle). Because of its ruggedness and simplicity of design, some examples still survive to this day, copied by multinational companies Ford, General Motors, and Nissan, through local subsidiary manufacturers to this day. Because it is an Asian Utility Vehicle, it shares its design with the Kijang, the Indonesian version. Automobile maker Toyota once held a franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association, naming its team the Toyota Tamaraws (see below).
During the wake of the Asian utility popularity in the 1990s, Toyota Motors Philippines released an Asian Utility Vehicle) called Tamaraw FX in the Philippines, an evolution of the Tamaraw AUV. It was widely patronized by taxi operators and was immediately turned into a staple mode of transportation much like a cross of the taxi and the jeepney. The FX eventually evolved into the Revo.
The tamaraw is also the mascot of the varsity teams of the Far Eastern University (FEU Tamaraws) in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, and of the Toyota Tamaraws of the Philippine Basketball Association.
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