Archive for Water Buffalos

Water Buffalos in Southeast Asia

Posted in Animals, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , on February 27, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Water buffalos coin the Southeast Asian landscapes. At the moment one leaves a city or town, they adorn the countryside.

Water buffalos are very lovely and sweet animals and, despite of their size, mostly harmless. Even kids shepherd them. It’s just if one comes very close to a water buffalo and the big animal makes an unexpected, abrupt move it, without intention, could harm a human. Their huge horns are pretty impressing, though, and if a stranger comes close, they take in a position of defense.

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In terms of microeconomics, water buffalos are often the most valuable possession of Southeast Asian peasants. The loss of a water buffalo can mean a big desaster for a rural family. Dowries for example are traditionally payed in buffalos instead of money in many Southeast Asian societies.

Remarkable is the decline of the water buffalo population in Thailand. After the official statistics the 2009 population was above 1.3 million, while it declined to below a million in 2012. It’s not only because the water buffalos face ‘unemployment’ by being replaced by tractors, but they bring a higher selling price outside of Thailand, which led to a mass deportation in the last years.

In some areas are buffalo fights part of the local folklore. I have seen such a disgusting event once in Sumatra around Bukittingi. The whole infamous thing is of course again about betting money. It’s one of the notorious variations of gambling.

In other regions annual buffalo races take place. It’s of course also about money and gambling.

The differences between the common domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and the wild species (Bubalus arnee) are slight. The wild one is clearly the ancestor of the domestic one, but it’s widely disappeared as such. In fact it’s classified as a ‘critically endangered’ species. Since the difference is so small, it’s difficult to distinguish wild water buffalos from escaped domestic ones. An escaped domestic one would, if finding a herd of wild buffalos, join them and interbreed with them. In Cambodias eastern province Mondulkiri might be some wild ones left, in Thailand are an estimated 50 individuals left in Huai Kha Kaeng reservat, what covers parts of Kanchanabury province and the region north of it, at the border to Burma / Myanmar. For Burma there are no numbers known. In Laos and Vietnam they are extinct. Nevertheless, the wild water buffalos ‘Bubalus arnee’ are native in Southeast Asia.

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