The Tamaraw, scientifically known as Bubalus mindorensis is the only native bovid to the Philippines, and is the countries largest native land animal. It is endemic to the island of Mindoro. Belonging to the family of buffalos, the same categorical group of the Philippine carabao, the Tamaraw is the largest endangered land animal in the Philippines today. In 1996, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed it as one of the ten most endangered species in the world.
People used to call Mindoro as the “Land of the Tamaraws”. About 10,000 heads of these unique pygmy water buffalos were roaming around the island-province of Mindoro in the 1900s.
The tamaraw is a small wild buffalo weighing about 300 kg (660 lb). It lives in dense forest with open glades for grazing, such as are created by fires or landslides. At one time it was found from sea level to 2000 m (6600′). It also prefers to be close to water for wallowing. The tamaraw feeds on grasses, bamboo shoots and aquatic vegetation. Its small size and great strength enables it to push through dense jungle and climb steep mountains. Tamaraw apparently associate in pairs, rather than herds, except when the cows are about to give birth.
The tamaraw was first documented by Western science in 1888. It has never been recorded from any area other than the island of Mindoro (Philippines). Prior to about 1900, most people had avoided settling on Mindoro, since it harbored a particularly virulent strain of malaria. Thus human impact on the tamaraw had been slight. At one time the tamaraw lived throughout most of the island. With the advent of anti-malarial medicines near the turn of the century, Mindoro became more accessible to human settlement. Since that time, the tamaraw’s population has been reduced from abundance to a critically low level. By 1966 its range had been reduced almost entirely to 3 principal areas: Mt. Iglit, Mt. Calavite, and the vicinity of the Sablayon Penal Settlement. By 2000, reports suggested that tamaraw were restricted to just 2 areas: the Iglit Ranges, in Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park, and Aruyan, with very few data about numbers in either site.
The tamaraw has declined mainly because of hunting, especially after the introduction of modern firearms after WWII and the Vietnam war; and habitat loss, due to settlement, logging and ranching, after malaria was brought under control around 1900. Disease (rinderpest) caught from domestic cattle introduced to the island in the 1930’s has also had a serious impact