The Wild Side of Cattle

Cattle might seem common, but there’s nothing ordinary about Asia’s wild cattle species: Banteng, Saola, Anoa, Tamaraw—and that list goes on. 

Tama-what now? The Tamaraw is a feisty dwarf buffalo unique to the Philippines’ island of Mindoro. Saola? An antelope-like species so elusive that no scientist has ever seen one in the wild and no camera trap has captured any images of it since 2013. Asian wild cattle are species with stories that capture the imagination. They also need our help.

Up until the 16th century, 13 species of wild cattle lived across Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Today, only 11 species are still around. Nine of those are found only in Asia. Wild cattle face a variety of threats, including habitat destruction and hunting, and as their populations get smaller, so do their opportunities to breed.

Importance of Asian Wild Cattle

Asian wild cattle, like most terrestrial vertebrates, play an important role in the ecosystems in which they live. They disperse seeds to help plants grow, they help cycle nutrients in the soil and they add balance to the food chain as prey for the predators with which they share their home. They even support communities of fungi and insects in their dung!

Large-antlered Muntjac (© Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research / WWF-Vietnam / USAID / Song Thanh Nature Reserve)

Supporting Wild Cattle Conservation

The IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group represents over 80 of the world’s experts on these species. They provide independent scientific advice on the conservation of Asia’s wild cattle to governments, international bodies and conservation groups. Re:wild supports this specialist group so that it can continue to provide advice, maintain up-to-date conservation assessments for each species and catalyze conservation for all Asian wild cattle species.

Wild Saola camera-trapped in central Laos (Bolikhamxay Province) in 1999. (Courtesy of William Robichaud)

Re:wild has projects working with the Saola and the Tamaraw. Through our partnership of the Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group we also support work on the Banteng and Anoa Action Indonesia program, which works to conserve Banteng and Anoa both in the wild and with the global population under human care as part of a conservation breeding program.

This work is done in collaboration with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the Conservation Centers for Species Survival and the Indonesian Zoo and Aquarium Association.


Wild Facts

  • There are 11 surviving wild cattle species.

  • Nine of the 11 surviving wild cattle species live in Asia.

  • Tamaraw are a source of tremendous national pride in the Philippines.

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There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the interrelated crises of wildlife extinctions, climate change and pandemics. Re:wild works with local and Indigenous communities, conservation partners, governments and others to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Our Asian wild cattle conservation approaches include any combination of the following solutions:

conservation breeding, translocations and reintroductions

Creating insurance populations to prevent extinction and active management of wildlife populations to help restore them to healthy and self-sustainable numbers across their natural range.

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protected area management

We work to improve management of protected and conserved areas to ensure a safe and equitable future for biodiversity and local communities.

Wildlife crime prevention

Developing community-led and owned prevention strategies that take into account the societal and cultural drivers of wildlife crime, and implementing systems and technology to stop poachers before a crime is even committed.

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Partnering with Indigenous Peoples

Incorporating Indigenous knowledge, practices and values to support Indigenous peoples in protecting and managing their lands and natural resources.

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