A rare Banteng born at Chester Zoo has provided a welcome boost to the conservation of the South East Asian species.
The Banteng is a wild forest-dwelling member of the cattle family. It is listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its numbers have declined dramatically in the last 50 years due to habitat loss and hunting throughout its native range. Recent estimates suggest there could be fewer than 5,000 left in the wild.
But, in a bid to counteract the worsening threat to their survival, Chester Zoo has joined forces with the wider global zoo community, international conservationists and the Indonesian government to support Banteng conservation in South East Asia.
The coordinated approach to conservation brings together the skills of top zoos (breeding, animal husbandry, veterinary treatment and education) with those of local experts, conservationists and sanctuaries on the ground.
Chester Zoo’s new female Banteng calf, which keepers have named Jasmine, arrived to mum Pankhuri and dad Gaston. She is the first youngster to be born since the conservation collaboration was formed at the end of March 2016.
Johanna Rode-Margono, the Zoo’s South East Asia conservation field programme officer who is working on the conservation of Asian wild cattle, said, “Zoos from Europe, America and Indonesia, field conservationists and Indonesian government representatives have, for the first time, joined forces in a global collaboration - working together to share expertise and resources for the conservation of Banteng. The new-born calf is a very important step towards a sustainable insurance population of the species.”
Jasmine is one of the first mammals to be born in Chester Zoo’s new Islands Zone exhibit, which showcases threatened species from region of South East Asia. Her arrival means the zoo now has a herd of ten Banteng (four males and six females).
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, added, “By making sure there is a viable global population of Banteng in zoos, whose genetic diversity represents the genetic diversity in the wild, the global zoo community can play a key role in the conservation of the species. There’s no doubt that zoos are now an important piece of the puzzle in the long-term protection of Banteng.”
“We’re thrilled with our new calf and are pleased to say she is strong and doing extremely well. Hopefully she will draw some much needed attention to these very special animals and help us to highlight the plight of her cousins in the wild. The Banteng is one of the few remaining species of totally wild cattle in the world, and, in the wild, they are hardly ever seen.”
“Sadly the threat of extinction to these magnificent animals is imminent. Banteng are now rarely sighted in Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo where their remaining forest home is fragmented and populations isolated. They’re facing a real battle for their survival as forests across South East Asia are being turned into palm oil plantations and hunting for their horns and meat, although illegal, is rife.”
The Banteng (Bos javanicus) is similar in size to domestic cattle, measuring 1.55 to 1.65 m (5 ft. 1 in to 5 ft. 5 in) tall at the shoulder and 2.45–3.5 m (8 ft. 0 in–11 ft. 6 in) in total length, including a 60 cm (2.0 ft.) tail. Body weight can range from 400 to 900 kg (880 to 1,980 lb.).
In mature males, the shorthaired coat is blue-black or dark chestnut in color, while in females and young it is chestnut with a dark dorsal stripe. Both males and females have white stockings on their lower legs, a white rump, a white muzzle, and white spots above the eyes. The build is similar to that of domestic cattle, but with a comparatively slender neck and small head, and a ridge on the back above the shoulders. The horns of females are short and tightly curved, pointing inward at the tips, while those of males arc upwards, growing 60 to 75 cm (24 to 30 in) long, and being connected by a horn-like bald patch on the forehead.
Banteng live in sparse forest where they feed on grasses, bamboo, fruit, leaves and young branches. The Banteng is generally active both night and day, but in places where humans are common they adopt a nocturnal schedule. Banteng tend to gather in herds of two to thirty members.