23 Nov 2016

We’re working with zoos around the globe, international conservationists and the Indonesian government to support Asian wild cattle conservation in South East Asia. This is the first time the global community has joined forces with the Indonesian government to share expertise and resources for the conservation of banteng, anoa and babirusa.

close up of a babirusa

Beautiful babirusa – well, we think so!

All these wild cattle species are threatened with extinction and together we want to reverse the dramatic decline in their population numbers.

It’s important that we share our expertise with other zoos and conservation projects around the world; strengthening the connection between the work being done in zoos and in the wild.

We have an active partnership with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group (AWCSG) – focusing mainly on the anoa, babirusa and banteng – which is made up of field experts, including conservationists, biologists and zoo professionals. The group is committed to sharing information, research results and conservation experience of Asian wild cattle.

Three banteng in the wild walking across a stream

Banteng in the wild. Photo credit: Niti Sukumal

Our South East Asia programme coordinator and programme officer of the Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group, Johanna Rode-Margono, recently spent time in Indonesia with Chester Zoo’s curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands.

The main objective of their trip was to strengthen our relationship further with other zoos in Indonesia and promote the importance of cooperative conservation breeding programmes in helping to save the three species; as well as finding opportunities to assist in building on husbandry practices and education activities.

Johanna tells us more:

The babirusa, anoa and banteng are all threatened with extinction mainly due to hunting and habitat loss – like human encroachment, plantations or mining. So any work being done to help protect them is vital.

Meet Johanna. Photo credit: The Little Fireface project
– Johanna Rode-Margono, South East Asia programme coordinator

landscape showing the destruction due to mining

Evidence of mining activities on the island of Sulawesi

Tim and Johanna spent time meeting other experts at seven Indonesian zoos to look at their husbandry practices and their current facilities in order to prepare an intensive keeper training workshop in 2017.

Tim explains:

Many zoos in Indonesia are already doing great work with keeping and breeding anoa, babirusa and banteng; but some still keep them in relatively basic conditions. Cooperative conservation breeding between zoos in Indonesia has not been done intensively, partly due to lack of facilities but also the lack of understanding of the benefits it can bring to the species as a whole.

– Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals

Chester Zoo staff visiting Indonesian zoo and looking at babirusa

Tim and Johanna spending time meeting other zoos in Indonesia.

Johanna and James Burton, chair of the AWCSG, also conducted surveys on the islands of Sulawesi and Java, to find potential location for future in-situ field projects. Together with the AWCSG, Chester Zoo wants to develop several long-term field projects in South East Asia that contribute directly to the conservation of the species in the wild.

The surveys will continue over the next few months to ensure the greatest impact and next year we aim to start a new project.

Anoa among long grass at Chester Zoo

The endangered anoa

We’re looking ahead to the new year – when we will be running training workshops on facility design and animal husbandry in Indonesian zoos. Tim will be leading these activities sharing the extensive skills he has developed through working at Chester Zoo; sharing them to help the global conservation of anoa, banteng and babirusa.

Keep an eye on our blog for more updates about our conservation work with Asian wild cattle.