By Anna Valmero
SAN JOSE, OCCIDENTAL MINDORO—To support the conservation of both the tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) and its productive mountain habitat, an ongoing project was launched to double the tamaraw’s wild population from 300 to 600 by 2020.
The sharp decrease from an estimated 10,000 individuals a century ago was due to a crippling outbreak of Rinderpest in the 1930s to incessant land clearing and trophy hunting in Mindoro, the tamaraw’s endemic home.
Only about 300 of the wild dwarf buffalo remain holding out atop the grassy slopes and forest patches of Mts. Iglit, Baco, Aruyan and Calavite in Mindoro, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines).
This makes the tamaraw a critically endangered species, in addition to its narrow distribution at its endemic habitat in Mindoro.
As the oldest island in the Philippine archipelago, Mindoro is one of the seven distinct bio-geographical zones of the country. Occidental Mindoro alone hosts two extremely productive natural zones – the Iglit-Baco mountain range and Apo Reef.
WWF and Far Eastern University (FEU)’s Western Mindoro Integrated Conservation program ties in tamaraw research and improved park management initiatives with current efforts to conserve Apo Reef and the rich marine habitats off the Sablayan coast.
Healthy forests translate to a better-managed source of water so essential for the vast rice fields of this island’s western floodplains, while healthy reefs generate vast amounts of protein.
WWF has worked with the municipality of Sablayan to better manage its fisheries and municipal waters over the past decade. A crowning achievement was the declaration of all of Apo Reef a “no-take” zone in 2007 – echoing the standards set by Tubbataha Reef in Palawan.
Both marine parks now form the core of WWF’s Great Reefs Project in the Philippines. WWF also works with the municipalities of Mamburao, Sablayan and Sta. Cruz in a conservation-led fisheries improvement scheme aimed at improving the traceability and supply chains of handline-caught yellow-fin tuna.
“The tamaraw is no mere FEU mascot – it is a charismatic Filipino icon. Our alliance is not just about the tamaraw. It is about connecting people with the environment,” said FEU Chief Financial Officer Juan Miguel Montinola.
Through its “Save-the-Tamaraws” project, the students and faculty of FEU have since 2005 provided support for a year-round tamaraw management and research-oriented program by participating in annual tamaraw counts each April.
FEU has additionally extended health and livelihood services for communities residing in and around the Iglit-Baco Range.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) has been studying and conserving the species since 1979.
Among DENR’s initiatives include establishment of a 280-hectare Gene Pool farm coupled with continued research and habitat protection.
“Our goal is two-fold – to double the number of wild tamaraw by 2020 – and to ensure that the ridges and reefs of Mindoro remain productive to adequately provide for its people in a climate-defined future,” said WWF-Philippines Vice-Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan.
(Photo by Far Eastern University)
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