A rare Lowland Anoa calf, the world’s smallest species of wild cattle, was born June 1st at Chester Zoo.
Mum Oana welcomed the new youngster, which has yet to be sexed or named, after a 10-month pregnancy.
The Anoa, which is usually found in forests and swamps on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, is listed as “Endangered” 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 as the ‘Demon of the Forest’, Anoas can often be persecuted by indigenous farmers who wrongly believe that they leave the forests at night and use their horns to attack other cattle.
Tim Rowlands, Chester Zoo’s 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,” Tim continued.
“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 the Zoo’s new Islands habitat (the biggest ever UK zoo development) since it opened last summer. The new Islands exhibit showcases threatened species from South East Asia and puts a spotlight on the conservation work Chester Zoo carries out in the region.
Johanna Rode-Margono, the Zoo’s 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, also known as midget buffalo and sapiutan, are a subgenus of Bubalus comprising two species native to Indonesia: the Mountain Anoa (Bubalus quarlesi) and the Lowland Anoa (Bubalus depressicornis). Both live in undisturbed rainforest, and are essentially miniature water buffalo. They are similar in appearance to a deer, weighing 150–300 kg (330–660 lb).
The Lowland Anoa (Bubalus depressicornis) is a small bovid, standing barely over 90 cm (35 in) at the shoulder. They are also known as anoa de Ilanura or anoa des plaines. It is most closely allied to the larger Asiatic Buffaloes, showing the same reversal of the direction of the hair on their backs.
The horns are peculiar for their upright direction and comparative straightness, although they have the same triangular section as in other Buffaloes. White spots are sometimes present below the eyes, and there may be white markings on the legs and back; the absence or presence of these white markings may be indicative of distinct races. The horns of the cows are very small. It is usually solitary, living in lowland forests and wetlands, browsing on plants and understory.