And the tragedy happened, incidentally, during the Tamaraw Conservation and Protection Month, which happens every year.
At age 21, the lone surviving captive-bred tamaraw, Kalibasib, has died last weekend, as broken by WWF Philippines and confirmed by Rizal Vice Mayor Rod Agas.
Doctors cite old age as the suspected cause of death. Experts estimate a Philippine tamaraw’s life span to be about 20 to 25 years, which means Kalibasib, at 21 years, had already reached its life’s twilight.
Kalibasib, a portmanteau of “Kalikasan Bagon Sibol,” or nature newly-sprung, was born in Brgy. Manoot, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, on June 24, 1999. Before its birth, 20 adult tamaraws, including Kalibasib’s mother “Mimi,” were taken from the wild as part of the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm’s effort to increase their population when it opened in 1980.
When the 20 tamaraws died, only Kalibasib was left behind, making him the sole tenant of the farm, now known as the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation, Research, and Educational Center, and representative of sorts of the endemic and critically endangered tamaraws of Mindoro.
Before Kalibasib’s death, it started to show signs of aging as early as 2018, when a scratch in his left eye made his vision cloudy. Then, it reportedly developed slight diarrhea weeks before its death.
During its life, Kalibasib seemed to be the 280-hectare farm’s celebrity. Hundreds of thousands of tourists each year would flock to the Brgy. Manoot farm just to meet and greet the tamaraw up close.
Annabelle Plantilla, project manager of the UN Development Programme Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), also lauded Kalibasib for “playing the role of educator and advocate,” helping her organization raise P1.15 million to help forest rangers and wardens safeguard the tamaraw sanctuary that is Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources — Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) shares that according to their latest count, there are only around 480 endemic tamaraws enduring in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially labeled its species as critically endangered citing diseases, habitat loss, and illegal poaching as the top causes.