'Demon of the forest'

Sulawesi is also home to the endangered anoa; which is the Sulawesi word for ‘buffalo’. This secretive and silent animal is the world’s smallest species of wild cattle.

It’s almost never seen in the wild – its main aim in life is to be invisible, so studying anoa behaviour in the wild is difficult since they are almost impossible to see. As soon as someone steps into the forest an animal, usually a bird, gives out an alarm and the anoa is alerted.

Anoa in Islands at Chester Zoo

They tend to live alone or in pairs, rather than in herds, as 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!

The population of this animal has declined dramatically and is a species that’s coming under pressure in its fight for survival. They’re losing their forest home, which is being cut down to make way for agricultural land, like rice paddies, but they are also hunted for their meat which is then sold at local markets. The meat is described as fiery or hot and men believe eating the meat of this powerful, horned animal will give them prowess.

Anoa in Islands at Chester Zoo

The anoa has been called the ‘demon of the forest’ by local farmers as they wrongly believe that they come out of the forest at night, like demons, and use their horns to attack other cattle.

Together with the wider global community, international conservationists and the Indonesian government, we’re working to protect the anoa and counteract the increasing threats to its survival. 

The threats of hunting and habitat loss go hand in hand - as the forests are destroyed the wildlife in the remaining forest becomes more accessible to poachers. The anoa is hunted with dogs and by laying wire snares along forest tracks. The forests are gradually emptying of animals…another species that needs our help. 

The anoas have settled into their new habitat on Islands at Chester Zoo; a clear sign of this is the latest arrival, an anoa birth...

Anoa in Islands at Chester Zoo

The new calf can only help us to raise more awareness about this fantastic species that is often overlooked.

Successful breeding is just one sign that an animal has settled into a new habitat but there are many more behaviours that we look for. Chester Zoo’s animal behaviour and welfare scientist tells us more about why it’s important to study animal behaviour, here.