The elusive Mindoro tamaraw, endemic to the province of Mindoro, is known as one of the Philippines’ most endangered species. The animal has long been used as a symbol of power, resilience, and the Philippines itself. Despite the powerful connotations entailed with its name, the tamaraw has been reduced from thousands to a measly estimate of 200. Said to have roamed the island of Mindoro from the flatlands to the rugged mountains, the now-elusive bovine is on the brink of extinction.

From Hero to Zero

Image: Vigattin Tourism

The main culprit behind the receding population of this species is none other than humans. The animal has been hunted since long ago by natives for food and their hide. It wasn’t until 2001 when the tamaraw was declared to be off-limits when it comes to hunting and trade. Lowland shrubbery is also their biome which is happens to be prime land for the multiplying populations of humans. Because of this, the tamaraw have been ousted from their habitats, resulting in fewer and fewer individuals.

The aforementioned estimate of 200 will continue to struggle and is predicted to die out within the next few decades. The ceasing of their population will result in an inevitable bottle-neck; the event in which a species’ gene pool becomes so shallow due to the small number of individuals left. This bottle-neck will cause problems with the animal’s genetic coding, possibly making it vulnerable to diseases and sicknesses. The genetic diversity of their population remains an eerie thought despite efforts to maintain a captive population in 1970 in order to have a distinct gene pool to repopulate the wild groups.

Image: Asian Species Action Partnership

Today, the animal associated with strength and endurance has been left cowering under the pressure of humans. We have forced the tamaraw into conditions it can no longer survive in. Like a fish out of water, the bleak future of the tamaraw seems inescapable, and the responsible blood-soaked hands can only look until the last tamaraw becomes one with the earth.