Ways to save tamaraw up in a roundtable discussion

By: Charlotte F. Pizarras, DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Office

      Dr. Ma. Josefina P. Abilay, DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Office

Four dwarf buffalos were seen roaming, in a pack, around the Magawang station, one of the species’ core habitats within Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park that also serves as the refuge and sanctuary of a melange of wild animals. —PHOTO COURTESY OF ALVARO GONZALEZ MONGE OF D’ABOVILLE FOUNDATION

One of the world’s rarest species, Tamaraw, which closely resembles the local carabao, can only be found in the island of Mindoro. However, due to human encroachment, the endemic species has been already “critically endangered”—just one step away from being extinct in the wild.

In this regard, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) recently gathered stakeholders across the country committed to protect and conserve the Tamaraw at the Seasons Hotel and Convention Center, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

The activity formed part of the 2018 MIMAROPA regional science and technology week celebration.

“The roundtable discussion aims to strengthen collaborative efforts and identify potential research areas specifically in Tamaraw counting as well as in scaling up their remaining population,” DOST-MIMAROPA regional director Ma. Josefina Abilay said in her opening speech during the RSTW celebration.

June Pineda-David, Jr., the coordinator of Tamaraw Conservation Project, led the roundtable discussion between various government agencies and non-government organizations involved in protecting and conserving the tamaraw.

Representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Tamaraw Conservation Project (DENR-TCP), Philippine Carabao Center, Occidental Mindoro Environment and Natural Resources Office, LGU-Magsaysay, World Wide Fund (WWF)–Philippines and D’ Aboville Foundation convened for the said discussion.

The participants talked about their new initiatives, practices, policy option, gaps and opportunities in their ongoing Tamaraw conservation efforts.

 “During the Tamaraw count in Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park in 2018, there are about 523 Tamaraws recorded compared with the previous year’s 401 Tamaraws,” reported Mrs. June David of the DENR’s Tamaraw Conservation Program.

Despite the population swell, Mrs. David said that they are still considered critically endangered as population number is just one of the several factors in assessing the species’ category of threat. Among the factors threatening them is their shrinking habitat size. 

Mangyan-Tamaraw Driven Landscape Program leader Emmanuel Schutz revealed that all Tamaraw habitats are within the Mangyan ancestral domain and thus, stressed the need to include the Mangyan in the tamaraw conservation initiatives.

According to Mr. Emmanuel Schutz of the Mangyan-Tamaraw Driven Landscape, the traditional and unsustainable agricultural practices of Mangyan tribes significantly contribute to the destruction of Tamaraw habitats.

Shutz stressed: “Now that all remaining Tamaraw populations are located in Mangyan ancestral domains, it is highly important to include the Mangyans in the equation.”

Meanwhile, the Western Mindoro Integrated Conservation Program (WMICP) revealed that they have already installed four movement sensitive cameras within core Tamaraw habitats for monitoring.

“The cameras use infrared sensing systems to detect Tamaraw presence and movement.” said Mr. Luis Caraan, the project manager of WMCIP, adding that the said cameras are still not the best tool there is for Tamaraw counting. Among the critical issues that were raised were the inadequate habitat assessment and mapping for possible pests and diseases; and the lack of local Tamaraw specialists.

Also invited to present biotechnologies for ensuring the continued survival of Tamaraw was Dr. Lerma Ocampo from the Philippine Carabao Center. Freezing and storing of sperms for artificial insemination was introduced as a potentially viable means for Tamaraw reproduction.

From the discussion, the participants affirmed commitment to the Population and Habitat Viability Assessment for Tamaraw and to the quarterly conduct of Tamaraw conservation meeting. Further, the results were used for the TCP’s proposal to establish a Tamaraw research facility cum sperm bank laboratory, which is currently primed for submission to possible funding organizations.

Recently this year, the province of Occidental Mindoro created a technical working group composed of members from different local government units and Occidental Mindoro State College who accordingly agreed to boost cooperation on crafting durable solutions for the looming threat of Tamaraw’s extinction.