Mounts Iglit Baco
View of the Lumintao and Busuanga Rivers valleys from Nagbobong area in Mount Iglit-Baco Natural Park
Mounts Iglit Baco

Tamaraw in  Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park

Located on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines, the vast and rugged Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park sits within one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, providing refuge to numerous Critically Endangered species. Among them is the Tamaraw, a dwarf wild buffalo unique to Mindoro and critical to the culture of the island’s original inhabitants, the Mangyans. GWC has joined local, national and international conservationists, policymakers and indigenous peoples to develop an ambitious and unprecedented plan to recover this important species.

Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park

Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park is the largest protected area of Mindoro, and is recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area – a vital habitat for the survival of unique plants and animals. In addition to Tamaraw, numerous species live only on the island and nowhere else in the world, including the Mindoro Imperial-Pigeon and Oliver’s Warty Pig. In 2018, the government of the Philippines gave Mounts Iglit-Baco the designation of Natural Park, committing to protect its rich biodiversity and mandating the development of a conservation management plan. The park also overlaps the territories of two indigenous tribes, the Buhid and Tau-Buid. Both tribes are part of the eight ethnolinguistic groups that make up the Mangyan indigenous people.

Tamaraw

Tamaraw in Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park. Photo by: Barney Long.

Tamaraw

At a glance, a Tamaraw might be mistaken for a domestic buffalo, but its V-shaped horns, smaller frame and feistier personality set it apart. Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, there are about 500 individual Tamaraw left on Mindoro. Some 80% live in Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, and two other small populations – numbering around 50 and 12 individuals – live elsewhere on the island. Without immediate conservation measures, these isolated subpopulations face extinction within the next few decades.

These figures are all the more sobering when compared to the 10,000+ Tamaraw that roamed the island at the turn of the twentieth century. Hunting, poaching, disease from domestic cattle, habitat destruction from non-sustainable land use – even invasive plants that the animals cannot eat – have dramatically reduced this population. And with females averaging just one offspring every two years, recovery of this species calls for immediate, effective conservation efforts.

Mangyan People

Photo by: Barney Long

The Mangyan people

The Mangyan people and the Tamaraw are more than mere neighbors in the steep mountains and valley forests of Mindoro. Tamaraw are a source of tremendous national pride, appearing on national currency and postage stamps, and even serving as the Far Eastern University mascot. On the island, October has been named Tamaraw Month, complete with colorful events, fun runs, biodiversity camps for students and much more. It’s no wonder that this beloved bovine is the national land animal of the Philippines.

And because the Tamaraw and Mangyans share a reliance on management of the environment and preservation of their ecosystem, the long-term survival of these animals is directly tied to the future of Mangyans. Helping one means helping the other.

That’s why GWC is working with the IUCN SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group, the D’Aboville Foundation, the administration of the Natural Park,  the government’s Tamaraw Conservation Program and other local groups to implement consistent solutions that save the Tamaraw in the wild, integrate the cultural and development needs of the indigenous people and address the non-sustainable use of natural resources in the region.  

Renewing a System and Securing the Future of the Tamaraw

Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park view

Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park. Photo by: Barney Long

Protected Area Management Plan

GWC has joined forces with local government agencies, leadership from indigenous communities and other local partners to develop a 10-year protected area management plan for Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park. Launching in 2019, the plan takes a holistic approach to managing the park and helping Tamaraw thrive, combining scientific management and monitoring of the species with six key focus areas: conservation, land use management, indigenous communities, wildlife crime prevention, tourism and awareness.

Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park Protected Area Management

Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park Management Plan. Photo by: James Slade.

National Tamaraw Conservation Action Plan

GWC is also helping to develop an ambitious conservation plan in lockstep with numerous parties committed to restoring the Tamaraw across Mindoro. The bold vision behind The National Tamaraw Conservation Action Plan – created by a team of more than 70 conservationists, policymakers and indigenous peoples – is as simple as it is ambitious: by the year 2050, the Tamaraw will thrive in well-managed habitats and populations that co-exist with indigenous people across Mindoro.

The developing plan is the product of the most recent Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) Workshop, held in 2018. Building upon previous PHVA workshop success that saw the Tamaraw population on Mounts Iglit-Baco increase from 150 to 400 over the past 23 years, the new Action Plan continues to focus on growing the Tamaraw population in Mounts Iglit-Baco, while also supplementing smaller, isolated subpopulations and  relocating Tamaraw to start two new populations. In addition, the plan will address primary threats to the species by striving to end all Tamaraw poaching, working with cattle ranchers to prevent the spread of disease from domestic cattle, managing invasive species like the plant shrub Chromolaena odorata, and working with local communities to manage their land in ways that mesh cultural needs with Tamaraw recovery.

Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park with TCP Rangers

TCP rangers monitor and protect the Natural Park and its resident Tamaraw, photo by: James Slade

Collaboration with Tau-Buid and Buhid indigenous peoples

Because Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park encompasses large tracts of the ancestral lands of the Tau-Buid and Buhid indigenous tribes, local leaders are key stakeholders in all park management decisions. As such, representatives from these indigenous groups are instrumental in designing a long-term strategy for the park and the Tamaraw within it.

“The Tau-Buid see their future and the future of the Tamaraw as inextricably linked, so any solution must include both,” Mike Appleton, GWC’s Director of Protected Area Management said. “The management plan sets out a program to help the Tau-Buid obtain official recognition of their Ancestral Domain, which has been denied them in the past, and then to work with them to manage their lands in a way that integrates their cultural and development needs with the recovery of Tamaraw.”

On-the-ground crime prevention is also critical, says James Slade, GWC Wildlife Crime Prevention Officer. “The indigenous people are active partners in wildlife crime prevention activities,” he said, “because illegal activities against wildlife and natural resources are also illegal acts of intrusion on their ancestral domains.”

Solutions

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Science

  • Develop accurate Tamaraw monitoring systems
  • Continue to document the biological diversity of the park and the wild places of Mindoro

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Endangered Species Recovery

Work with the international scientific, conservation, and zoo communities to assess and implement options for active population management – possibly including translocations, and conservation breeding.

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Indigenous communities

  • Increase our understanding of the culture and needs of indigenous peoples and of their relationship with the Tamaraw and their traditions of stewardship of the wild places of Mindoro
  • Work with indigenous peoples to improve their food security and living conditions; helping them become the protectors they want to be.

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Poaching Prevention

To strive towards the zero poaching of Tamaraw,  we are upgrading the capacity for rangers and indigenous communities through wildlife crime prevention and law enforcement by:

  • Implementing the use of SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) to increase the monitoring and planning of law enforcement efforts
  • Advancing the skills and techniques rangers use to prevent wildlife crime through training, better equipment and mentorship
  • Supporting continued relationships between all stakeholders for the joint protection of Tamaraw

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Protected Area Management

Work with the administration of MIBNP to build their capacity to implement and monitor the management plan.

  • Mentorship of key personnel on the management team.
  • Helping the National Park’s technical units develop work programs for implementing each goal of the plan.
  • Training unit members in the new skills they will need
  • Providing field-based evidence to support Tamaraw conservation measures and the restoration of former ranch land
  • Identifying new sources of support and finance to implement the plan, focusing on achieving long term financial sustainability for the park.

Get The Details

Species Red List StatusPopulationLocation StatusPartners

Around 500

Biodiversity hotspot

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