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06 08/06/2016

Rare ‘demon of the forest’ born

  • Anoa
  • New arrivals

A rare anoa calf - the world’s smallest species of wild cattle - has been born.

Anoa calf at Chester Zoo
A rare anoa calf has been born at Chester Zoo. The anoa is the world’s smallest species of wild cattle and is found only on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Mum Oana welcomed the new female youngster, which keepers have named Nani, after a 10-month pregnancy.

The anoa, which is usually found in forests and swamps on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with just 2,500 estimated to be left in the wild. Their falling numbers are largely attributed to habitat loss and overhunting for their meat.

Sometimes referred to locally as the ‘demon of the forest’, anoas can often be persecuted by farmers who wrongly believe that they leave the forests at night and use their horns to attack other cattle. 

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, said:

The lowland anoa is a species that’s coming under real pressure in its fight for survival.

Not only are they suffering from loss of their forest habitat, which is being chopped down to make way for agricultural land, they are also hunted for their meat. Anoas are also sometimes mistakenly killed by farmers who hold them responsible for puncturing their cattle at night. All of this is sadly contributing to an uncertain future for the species.

That said, all is far from lost, and we are actively supporting conservation efforts to protect the anoa and its habitat in Sulawesi. And our new calf can only help us to raise more awareness about this fantastic species.

Looking at our latest arrival, it’s impossible to see how anyone could harm anoas or label them ‘demonic.’ They’re a beautiful, shy and secretive animal that are misunderstood and often overlooked.

The new calf is the first of its kind to be born in our new Islands habitat – the biggest ever UK zoo development – since it opened last summer. Islands showcases threatened species from South East Asia and puts a spotlight on the conservation work the zoo carries out in the region.

Johanna Rode-Margono, our South East Asia conservation field programme officer who is working on the conservation of Asian wild cattle, added:

Together with the wider global zoo community, international conservationists and the Indonesian government, we’re supporting the conservation of the anoa in South East Asia to counteract the increasing threats to its survival.

The pressure on the species can be reduced through the improvement of law enforcement to prevent poaching, for example by providing training to patrol teams, by educating local people about their shy character and to reduce the demand for wild anoa meat. Right now we are developing conservation projects in Sulawesi that will aim to achieve these exact goals.

Anoa facts

  • The anoa, named after the Sulawesi word for buffalo, is a wild cattle species native to forests in Indonesia. This miniature water buffalo, which barely reach a metre in height, is divided into lowland and mountain species although there is still some debate as to whether they are in fact different
  • They are the smallest species of wild cattle 
  • They live in forests and swamps on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi
  • Lowland anoa, as the name suggests, can be found in low-lying regions of swampy forest
  • They are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning they face a very high risk of extinction in the wild 
  • It is estimated that less than 2,500 mature individuals remain 
  • Numbers have been declining throughout Sulawesi as a result of hunting for their meat and habitat loss, with forest being converted to agriculture, namely rice paddies 
  • Very little is known about the ecology and life history of the anoas
  • The species is solitary, secret and silent and live alone or in pairs, rather than herds. Being able to stay silent as a solitary animal is safer in the forest than being part of a herd where disturbance is more likely and cover blown
  • They are browsers, feeding on vegetation 
  • They are reported to drink seawater, which may be a source of minerals
  • Their distinctive flattened horns are a formidable weapon
  • The new calf, Nani, was born on 1 June 2016 
  • Mum is called Oana and is five years old (born on 4/5/2011)

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