We’re working with zoos around the globe, international conservationists and the Indonesian government to support Asian wild cattle conservation in South East Asia. This is the first time the global community has joined forces with the Indonesian government to share expertise and resources for the conservation of banteng, anoa and babirusa.
All these wild cattle species are threatened with extinction and together we want to reverse the dramatic decline in their population numbers.
It’s important that we share our expertise with other zoos and conservation projects around the world; strengthening the connection between the work being done in zoos and in the wild.
We have an active partnership with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group (AWCSG) – focusing mainly on the anoa, babirusa and banteng – which is made up of field experts, including conservationists, biologists and zoo professionals. The group is committed to sharing information, research results and conservation experience of Asian wild cattle.
Our South East Asia programme coordinator and programme officer of the Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group, Johanna Rode-Margono, recently spent time in Indonesia with Chester Zoo’s curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands.
The main objective of their trip was to strengthen our relationship further with other zoos in Indonesia and promote the importance of cooperative conservation breeding programmes in helping to save the three species; as well as finding opportunities to assist in building on husbandry practices and education activities.
Johanna tells us more:
The babirusa, anoa and banteng are all threatened with extinction mainly due to hunting and habitat loss - like human encroachment, plantations or mining. So any work being done to help protect them is vital.
“Chester Zoo is one of the leaders in the conservation breeding of anoa, babirusa and banteng, our experts have important skills and knowledge that they can share and collaborate with others to ensure the survival of these animals before we lose them forever.
“By making sure there is a viable global population of these species in zoos, whose genetic diversity represents the genetic diversity in the wild, the global zoo community can play a vital role in saving them.”
Tim and Johanna spent time meeting other experts at seven Indonesian zoos to look at their husbandry practices and their current facilities in order to prepare an intensive keeper training workshop in 2017.
Many zoos in Indonesia are already doing great work with keeping and breeding anoa, babirusa and banteng; but some still keep them in relatively basic conditions. Cooperative conservation breeding between zoos in Indonesia has not been done intensively, partly due to lack of facilities but also the lack of understanding of the benefits it can bring to the species as a whole.
“It takes time and diplomatic discussions to explain to some Indonesian zoos the bigger picture and how conservation breeding is an important part of saving endangered species. But it’s worth the effort.”
Johanna and James Burton, chair of the AWCSG, also conducted surveys on the islands of Sulawesi and Java, to find potential location for future in-situ field projects. Together with the AWCSG, Chester Zoo wants to develop several long-term field projects in South East Asia that contribute directly to the conservation of the species in the wild.
The surveys will continue over the next few months to ensure the greatest impact and next year we aim to start a new project.
“We have not seen any wild anoa and babirusa. Apart from the fact that they are elusive and rare species, by talking to conservation authorities and local people we got the feeling populations are declining fast. It is time to act! In contrast, we have been lucky enough to see banteng in some National Parks. Although just a few hundred are left, we could observe around 70 animals in one grazing ground. This was a very emotional moment for the team.”
We’re looking ahead to the new year – when we will be running training workshops on facility design and animal husbandry in Indonesian zoos. Tim will be leading these activities sharing the extensive skills he has developed through working at Chester Zoo; sharing them to help the global conservation of anoa, banteng and babirusa.
Keep an eye on our blog for more updates about our conservation work with Asian wild cattle.