Tamaraws of Mindanao?

By Mary Grace Catapang
Published 2019 November 5 – From November 2019 Issue

“Mindoro? Is that in Mindanao?”

Hearing this outright misconception as a probinsyana who braved the crowded, somehow-chaotic metropolis to pursue higher education for more than two years already is nothing new to me. The similar sound and identical first four letters of Mindoro and Mindanao trick a lot of people into thinking that Mindoro is part of it. But it’s actually part of Luzon and just about four to five hours away from Metro Manila.

Personally, I feel like Mindoro is so underrated. Ever heard of Mt. Halcon, the Mangyans, or the critically endangered tamaraw which can only be found on the island of Mindoro? These might ring a bell to some but wouldn’t really spark interest to a lot of people.

In pre-school or early grade school years, most of us were taught that the Carabao is Philippines’ national land animal (although there’s no official legislation that mandates this). I bet a lot of people would mistake Carabao, our so-called farmer’s best friend and symbol of Filipino hard work for a tamaraw because of their similar-but-not-perfectly-alike body structure with their grayish-black skin and horns. However, Bubalus mindorensis, Mindoro water buffalo, or simply tamaraw has V-shaped horns compared to the crescent-shaped horns of the Carabao. They are also generally shorter in height and lighter than the Carabao. 

As someone from Mindoro, you might think that I’ve already seen a tamaraw multiple times. But mind you, I had to travel from Oriental Mindoro to the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm in Occidental Mindoro for more than six hours just to see Kalibasib (Kalikasang Bagong Sibol), the last remaining tamaraw in captivity whose health is continuously deteriorating due to old age.

Sadly, this species endemic to Mindoro, and nowhere else to be found in the world with only 480 remaining individuals based on the latest 2019 annual tamaraw count are on the brink of extinction due to threats like habitat loss and poaching. 

Laws that protect the tamaraw have been passed over the years. There’s even a bill declaring tamaraw as the national land animal already approved by the House panel.

Despite the conservation efforts being done by the government and non-government organizations, the tamaraw still has a long way to go before escaping the verge of extinction. But as long as there are people who care, people who act to protect this species, national pride and heritage, then there’s still hope that the tamaraws of Mindoro will survive and thrive until the next decades or so.


D’Aboville E. 2019. Annual Tamaraw Population Count 2019 – Testing a new method (April 1 to 8) [Internet]. D’Aboville Foundation; [cited 2019 Oct 6]. Available from: https://www.dabovillefoundation.org/2019/05/04/annual-tamaraw-population-count-2019-testing-a-new-method-april-1-to-8/

Atienza C. 2017. House panel declares Tamaraw as the national land animal [Internet]. Manila Bulletin; [cited 2019 Oct 6]. Available from: https://news.mb.com.ph/2017/12/07/house-panel-declares-tamaraw-as-the-national-land-animal/

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