Kalibasib, the tamaraw born and bred in captivity, has died

Published October 11, 2020, 5:02 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

“Kalibasib,” the lone surviving Philippine tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) bred in captivity, died last Saturday, Oct. 10.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) OIC Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent Director of the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Ricardo Calderon confirmed the death of Kalibasib in a text message to the Manila Bulletin.

“[Before it died], Kalibasib had slight diarrhea. It was already sent to the San Jose Municipal Veterinary Office in Occidental Mindoro for necropsy,” Calderon said.

“Old age is also suspected as the cause of its death because it was born in 1999,” he added.

Kalibasib, which is short for Kalikasan Bagong Sibol (nature newly sprung), was born on June 24, 1999, making it 21 years old on its death. Experts say a Philippine tamaraw could live up to 20 to 25 years.

Kalibasib was the first and only Philippine tamaraw born and bred in captivity, housed at the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation, Research, and Educational Center, formerly the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm, located in Brgy. Manoot, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro.

Twenty adult tamaraws, including Kalibasib’s mother “Mimi” were taken from the wild when the Tamaraw Gene Pool Farm was opened in 1980. The farm was part of the captive breeding program of the DENR to conserve the Philippine tamaraw, which is endemic to Mindoro.

However, all 20 tamaraws originally captured for the gene pool have died. Since then, Kalibasib was the farm’s lone occupant.

Incidentally, Kalibasib died during the celebration of National Tamaraw Month.

Presidential Proclamation 273 of 2002 declared October of every year as a “Special Month for the Conservation and Protection of the Tamaraw in Mindoro.”

The tamaraw is a much smaller version of the carabao, and is distinguished by its V-shaped, backward-pointing stout horns, which it shakes to signal aggression.  

Estimated at around 10,000 heads in the 1960s, tamaraw population has significantly dwindled in recent years due to diseases, illegal poaching, and habitat loss. It has been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Most of the tamaraw population remain within the 2,500-hectare strict protection zone inside the 106,655-hectare Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park in Mindoro.

Based on the DENR-BMB’s latest count, there are around 480 tamaraw individuals remaining in the wild. “We really have to sustain our conservation effort along this line,” Calderon said.