Animal Info - Wild Asian (Water) Buffalo

(Other Names: Arni, Asian Buffalo, Asian Water Buffalo, Asiatic Buffalo, Bufalo Arni, Buffle d'Eau, Buffle de l'Inde, Carabao, Indian Buffalo, Water Buffalo)

Bubalus bubalis (B. arnee)

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Rate, Early Development, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization)
5. References


Profile

Picture: Wild Asian Buffalo (27 Kb JPEG) (Univ. of Alaska 2000)

The wild Asian buffalo weighs 800 - 1200 kg (1800 - 2600 lb). It is a massive, powerful animal, with the widest horn span of any bovid - more than 6.5' (2 m). The wild Asian buffalo is very dependent on the availability of water. Historically, its preferred habitats were low-lying alluvial grasslands and their surroundings. Riparian forests and woodlands were also utilized. The wild Asian buffalo eats grass and leafy aquatic vegetation. It is mainly a grazer, feeding in the morning and evenings and lying up in dense cover or submerging in wallows during midday. During the midday heat, the wild Asian buffalo frequently wallows in water or muddy pools, sometimes almost completely submerged, with only its nostrils showing. In addition to keeping it cool, wallowing helps to remove skin parasites, biting flies, and other pests. Where there is substantial human disturbance, the wild Asian buffalo is mainly nocturnal.

A herd of female wild Asian buffaloes with young is led by a dominant matriarch and often accompanied by a single adult bull. Other males live solitarily or form bachelor herds of about 10. Young males spar with each other to assert dominance but avoid serious fighting. They mix with females at mating time.

The wild Asian buffalo originally ranged from eastern Nepal and India, east to Vietnam, and south to Malaysia. By 1963, it had been substantially reduced numerically and eliminated from the greater part of its former range. Currently, the total world population of wild Asian buffalo is almost certainly less than 4,000 animals and may well be less than 200 animals. It is even possible that no purebred wild Asian buffalo remain. Population estimates are hampered by the difficulty in distinguishing wild buffalo from domestic, feral and hybrid buffalo.  In India, wild buffalo are now largely restricted to Assam and Madhya Pradesh, although most, if not all, are believed to have interbred with domestic and/or feral buffalo. An unknown number of buffalo, believed to include truly wild individuals, occurs in Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park. Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve contains the only sub-population in Nepal. In Thailand, 40 – 50 wild buffalo are reported to occur in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary; this is the only sub-population remaining in Thailand

The most important threats to wild Asian buffalo are: interbreeding with feral and domestic buffalo, habitat loss/degradation, and hunting. Diseases and parasites (transmitted by domestic livestock) and competition for food and water between wild buffalo and domestic stock are also serious threats. 


Tidbits

*** The wild Asian buffalo is the ancestor of the domestic water buffalo. The wild Asian buffalo has been domesticated for thousands of years and bred around the world into various, mostly smaller, breeds of less than 500 kg (1100 lb). The domesticated water buffalo is now found in most tropical and subtropical regions.

*** Archeological evidence shows that domestic buffalo were being used in Zhejiang Province of China, just south of the mouth of the Yangtze River, 6000 - 7000 years ago (although some think that these may have belonged to a separate species, Bubalus mephistopheles, which has been reported as a wild animal from Pleistocene and early historical sites in Henan Province, China). (Nowak 1999)

*** Thailand's wild Asian buffalo is the largest water buffalo in the world.


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

  • 1960's - 1970's: Vulnerable
  • 1980's - 1994: Endangered
  • 1996 - 2004: Endangered (Criteria: A2e, C1) (Population Trend: Decreasing) (IUCN 2004)

Countries Where the Wild Asian Buffalo Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Bhutan, India, Nepal and Thailand. (IUCN 2004)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

  • WORLD
    • 1966: Less than 2000 (IUCN 1967).
    • 1980's: 1000 - 1500 (WCMC 2003) 
    • 1990: Less than 2000 (Humphrey & Bain 1990)
    • 1998: Very unlikely to be more than 4000, is probably fewer than 1000, and is quite possibly fewer than 200 (Hedges 1998)
    • 2004: Less than 4000; may be less than 200; indeed it is possible that no purebred wild Asian buffalo remain (IUCN 2004)
    •  
  • India
    • 1966: Under 2000 (Peninsular India: 400 - 500; Assam: 1425) (IUCN 1967)
    • 1989: 1000 (Madhya Pradesh and Assam) (Oryx 1989c)
    • 1994: The bulk if India's population totals perhaps 3300 - 3500 (90% in Assam) (Choudhury 1994)
  • Nepal

History of Distribution:

The wild Asian buffalo originally ranged from eastern Nepal and India, east to Vietnam, and south to Malaysia. By 1963, it had been substantially reduced numerically and eliminated from the greater part of its former range. At that time it was thought to be restricted to three zones: the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam, India, the lower reaches of the Godavari River at the confluence of the borders of the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh in India, and the Saptkosi River, Nepal, close to the border with India. As of 1990, remnant populations were thought to occur in Assam and Orissa in India, in Nepal, and in two sanctuaries in Thailand.

Currently, the total world population of wild Asian buffalo is almost certainly less than 4,000 animals and may well be less than 200 animals. Indeed it is possible that no purebred wild Asian buffalo remain. However these figures are little more than informed guesses, since any assessment of wild buffalo numbers is hampered by the difficulty of distinguishing between free-ranging domestic buffalo, feral buffalo, and truly wild buffalo, as well as hybrids between wild and other buffalo. In India, wild buffalo are now largely restricted to Assam and Madhya Pradesh, but most, if not all, surviving populations are believed to have interbred with domestic and/or feral buffalo. An unknown number of buffalo, believed to include truly wild individuals, occurs in Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park; this is the only sub-population in Bhutan. Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve contains the only sub-population in Nepal. In Thailand, 40 – 50 wild buffalo are reported to occur in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary; this is the only sub-population remaining in Thailand. (IUCN 2004)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The most important threats to wild Asian buffalo are interbreeding with feral and domestic buffalo, habitat loss/degradation, and hunting. Diseases and parasites (transmitted by domestic livestock) and competition for food and water between wild buffalo and domestic stock are also serious threats. (IUCN 2004)


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

The wild Asian buffalo has a length of 2.4 - 3 m (7.8 - 9.8') and weighs 800 - 1200 kg (1800 - 2600 lb).

Habitat:

The wild Asian buffalo is very dependent on the availability of water. Historically, its preferred habitats were low-lying alluvial grasslands and their surroundings. Riparian forests and woodlands were also utilized. (IUCN 2004)

Age to Maturity:

Puberty is reached at about 18 months.

Gestation Period:

300 - 340 days.

Birth Rate:

Usually 1 calf per birth. The birth interval is usually about 2 years.

Early Development:

Weaning occurs after 6 - 9 months.

Maximum Age:

At least 25 years in the wild, 29 years in captivity.

Diet:

The wild Asian buffalo eats grass and leafy aquatic vegetation.

Behavior:

The wild Asian buffalo is chiefly a grazer, feeding in the morning and evenings and lying up in dense cover or submerging in wallows during midday. During the midday heat, the wild Asian buffalo frequently wallows in water or muddy pools, sometimes almost completely submerged, with only its nostrils showing. In addition to keeping it cool, wallowing helps to remove skin parasites, biting flies, and other pests.

Where there is substantial human disturbance the wild Asian buffalo is mainly nocturnal.

Social Organization:

A herd of female wild Asian buffaloes with young is led by a dominant matriarch and often accompanied by a single adult bull. Other males live solitarily or form bachelor herds of about 10. Young males spar with each other to assert dominance but avoid serious fighting. They mix with females at mating time. (Burnie & Wilson 2001, WCMC 2003)


References

Burnie & Wilson 2001, Burton & Pearson 1987, Choudhury 1994, Curry-Lindahl 1972, Dahmer 2004, Gee 1964, Hedges 1998, Humphrey & Bain 1990, IUCN 1967, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004Macdonald 1984, Nowak 1999, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Oryx 1967, Oryx 1976b, Oryx 1989c, Univ. of Alaska 2000, WCMC 2003


Top of Page | Search This Site

Home | Rarest Mammals | Species Index | Species Groups Index | Country Index | Links


Last modified: December 10, 2004;

1999 - 2014 Animal Info. Endangered animals of the world. SJ Contact Us.