Workshops provide hope for Asian wild cattle, buffalos and pigs

28 May 2009 | News story

Ten-year plans to conserve four of Indonesia’s most threatened species were agreed at two workshops in May.

The mountain anoa (Bubalus quarlesi) and lowland anoa (Bubalus depressicornis) – two species of dwarf buffalo, as well as the babyrousa (Babyrousa spp.), a wild pig, and banteng (Bos javanicus), a wild cattle species, are all threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008. Poaching and habitat destruction and degradation are among the major threats to these species, which have been identified by the Indonesian Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation as high priorities for species conservation.

Earthwatch was among the organisations sponsoring the two workshops, hosted by the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry and the IUCN/Species Survival Commission’s Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group, of which Earthwatch Research Manager Dr James Burton is chair. More than 110 representatives from provincial and national forestry departments, local and international NGOs, and Indonesian zoo staff and academics, agreed the mid-term rescue plans.

Dr Burton says, “These workshops are now an important part of conserving Indonesia’s highly diverse and threatened biodiversity. The Ministry of Forestry has published at least four action plans in 2007 and 2008; these workshops will produce the next three action plans. It’s an example of a great partnership between Earthwatch Institute, IUCN and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. These will be the first action plans for species in eastern Indonesia. Following publication of the plans, the hard work begins to disseminate the information, explain the priorities for conservation, and motivate action.”

The anoas and babyrousa are endemic to Sulawesi Island in eastern Indonesia, while the banteng is found in isolated populations on Java and Kalimantan. These species act as important flagships for their respective islands and play a vital role in their natural environment by helping to maintain habitat diversity through grazing. They also represent a major reservoir of genetic material that could help scientists to safeguard and improve domestic cattle breeds throughout the world. This is best represented by the banteng, which has a domesticated form – the Bali cattle, widely used for meat and milk production across Indonesia and other south-east Asian countries.

The workshops were sponsored by Leipzig Zoo, Chester Zoo, Centre for Conservation of Tropical Ungulates, Los Angeles City Zoo, Opel Zoo, Stuttgart Zoo, Houston Zoo, Audubon Zoo, University of Edinburgh, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Earthwatch Institute