Mindoro Occidental governor Ed Gadiano announced the passing of Kalibasib last October 11. Kalibasib, short for Kalikasang Bagong Sibol (or “nature’s new growth” in English) was the first and only tamaraw to be bred in captivity.
Born on June 24, 1999, the 21-year old tamaraw was based in a controlled gene pool in Rizal, Mindoro. According to Tamaraw Conservation Project (TCP) coordinator Teresita David, the life span for buffalos is up to 20-25 years.
Kalibasib first showed symptoms of slowing down last 2018. Veterinarians noticed cloudiness in his left eye. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) OIC Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent director of the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Ricardo Calderon noted that Kalibasib recently had slight diarrhea and was sent to the San Jose Municipal Veterinary Office in Occidental Mindoro for necropsy.
“Old age is also suspected as the cause of its death because it was born in 1999,” he said.
Full of love, lack of technology
Kalibasib was highly known in Mindoro for being the main attraction in the gene pool, as a record of 95,846 tourists went last year to visit the tamaraw.
“In the 21 years of the animal’s life, [he] gave meaning and happiness to every Mindoreno as we progressed and recognized [all natives] as one race,” Gadiano said.
However, many captive breeding programs in the Philippines have been unsuccessful due to the lack of essential technology and resources.
When the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm opened in 1980, Kalibasib’s mother was among the 20 adult tamaraws taken captive from the wild, but most adults eventually died from liver fluke and pneumonia. Since then, Kalibasib was the only tamaraw who lived in confinement, as the rest of the offspring of his mother, Mimi, were stillborn.
“Aside from old age, they [tamaraws] are not used to being confined. They are roaming animals in their natural habitat,” David added.
Famous for his interactions with the visitors, Kalibasib’s confined environment is observed to be in stark contrast to tamaraw behavior in the wild, that is generally territorial and elusive, tamaraw watchman Onie Ordo shared. The Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm allocated a 4,028 square meter fenced range for Kalibasib.
Great loss during Tamaraw Month
Gadiano hoped that the death of Kalibasib, which took place during Tamaraw Month, a celebration of the conservation of the tamaraw in Mindoro, would serve as a reminder to everyone of their responsibility to protect and conserve them.
“Sa selebrasyon ng Tamaraw Month, magsilbi sana itong paalala para sa kontribusyon sa pagpapalaganap ng kamalayan, pagbibigay proteksyon at pangangalaga sa mga tamaraw. [Ito] ay isang napakahalagang responsibilidad,” Gadiano shared.
“Kali has played a vital role in raising awareness for the conservation of the world’s rarest and most endangered water buffalo species endemic to the Philippines,” World Wide Fund Philippines’ communicator Alo Lantin said.
Due to diseases, illegal poaching, and habitat loss, the rare buffalo pool significantly decreased in number, as a past report in 1960 recorded over 10,000 tamaraw heads in the Philippines. Currently, the tamaraw pool count remains at around 480 heads.
With the dwindling number of rare buffalos Calderon stated, “We really have to sustain our conservation effort along this line.”
The Philippine Tamaraw is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The rare buffalo resembles the carabao, but are smaller and have shorter horns that grow upward in a “V” shape. Also known as dwarf water buffalo, the tamaraw is known to be the largest native land mammal in the Philippines and is endemic in Mindoro. [P]
Photo from Gab Mejia (@gabmejia)