Over 40 delegates from across South-east Asia have this week agreed to a new regional conservation strategy aimed to reverse the dramatic decline of Asian wild cattle and buffalo species. The landmark meeting was held over six days in Vĩnh Phúc Province, Vietnam.
All nine species of Asian wild cattle and buffaloes are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ 2008. The worst affected is the Kouprey (Bos sauveli), a large forest-dwelling ox, about the same size as a Water Buffalo. Last seen in Cambodia in 1969, it has not been located since and may now be extinct in the wild.
Asian wild cattle and buffaloes play a vital role in their natural environment. They are an important prey species and also help maintain habitat diversity through grazing. Wild cattle species also represent a major reservoir of genetic material that could help scientists safeguard and improve domestic cattle breeds throughout the world.
Poaching and habitat destruction and degradation are amongst the major threats facing these species. Recent field research shows there is a real danger that Asia's eight other wild cattle and buffalo species are likely to suffer the same fate as the Kouprey unless immediate action is taken.
Representatives from 11 countries comprising of academics, experts, policy makers, NGOs and government officials, came to the planning workshop hosted by the IUCN/SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group and The Wild Cattle Conservation Project in Vietnam (CIRAD, French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development). The event was held in Tam Dao National Park and was sponsored by the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM), Earthwatch Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Amongst the actions agreed for the Regional Conservation Strategy were; to strengthen enforcement of legislation on wildlife hunting and trade, to improve the effectiveness of protected areas and to manage interactions with domestic livestock that could lead to disease transmission and inter-breeding.
In the coming months, further workshops will be held in South and South-east Asia, to continue the process of saving these species from extinction.
For more information about the regional conservation strategy please contact:
Rosie Woodroffe, Zoological Society of London and member of IUCN Species Conservation Planning Task Force
Miguel Pedrono, French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and member of the IUCN/SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group