Conserving the Tamaraws

Biologist and Balik Scientist Dr. Nikki Heherson Dagamac is on a mission to assess and monitor the elusive tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) in Mindoro to protect it from extinction.

Through Project MATAPAT (or Multidisciplinary Approaches for Tamaraw Protection against Threats), he seeks to assess the current status of tamaraw in Mt. Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary (MCWS) and identify priority areas of conservation in Occidental Mindoro.

Supported by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of  Science and Technology, Dagamac’s team uses assessment techniques like used-camera trapping and census in MCWS’s Strict Protection Zone by deploying 20 infrared camera traps in 100 locations for 1,400 camera trapping days.

Apart from DoST, the project is being implemented by the Department of Biological Sciences (UST) in collaboration with D’Aboville Foundation, Demo Farmer Inc., Tamaraw Conservation Program.

Another project component– focused on analyzing the sustainability of tamaraw habitat, uses ecological niche modeling to identify areas that are high suitable for the translocation of tamaraws, an endemic dwarf buffalo in Mindoro. Considered as endangered by the DENR under Administrative Order 2004-15, the tamaraw has been assessed for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species in 2016.

In DENR’s Tamaraw Conservation and Management Action Plan (2019-2028), the specie is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, fires caused by kaingin, invasive non-native plants (weeds and grasses) and unregulated wildlife poaching and hunting from residing indigenous communities and other external groups.

The project worked closely with the Iraya-Mangyan tribes in camera-trapping and habitat assessment activities. Dagamac was able to capture other endangered, endemica nd elusive species present in Mindoro like the warty pig and the Philippine brown deer. This, he said, is an essential progress in habitat assessment and sustainability.

Before returning to the Philippines, he worked as research associate in a German university and as a visiting Adjunct Professor at the Thai-Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry in Vietnam.

He also founded the Initiatives for Conservation, Landscape Ecology, Bioprospecting and Biomodeling. where he was able to hone the research collaboration skills ofy oung and budding researchers on biodiversity assessment and conservation. (RDLC)

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