Banteng : The Horns of a Dilemma

Wild cattle don’t come much more beautiful or impressive than the banteng (Bos javanicus), one of three (or is it two?) surviving cattle species that are as much a part of wild Asia as are the tiger or the orang-utan. Like the tiger and the orang-utan, the banteng has not done very well in the face of human pressure, but it has one thing those animals don’t: a large population – its largest, in fact – living wild in a country that was never part of its natural range.

So what does it mean for conservation when an endangered animal’s safest and most successful home is a place Nature never put it …?


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Photos and film and lots of further info on not just the banteng, but also the gaur (Bos gaurus) and the kind of tragic kouprey (Bos sauveli) await in the shownotes…

Here’s the gaur (Bos gaurus), the largest of all the world’s wild cattle:

And here’s the banteng, which – let’s be honest – is very, very similar. But not quite as big:

And here, in grainy, distant footage, is the rarest – and most possibly extinct – of Asia’s wild cattle, the kouprey (Bos sauveli). This, I think, was the last (possibly only?) film ever shot of them, decades ago:

Here are banteng being themselves in their natural habitat, the forests of South-East Asia (Thailand in this case). The music’s a bit annoying imho, but ignore that for a moment, and just watch; these are, if you ask me, beautiful animals:

And here’s the full story of Australia’s feral banteng, with both sides of the dilemma: are they non-native, feral animals that don’t really belong, or should we just be glad the banteng’s doing well somewhere?

One of the best places to start if you’re looking for an overview of a species – its habitat and habits, populations and threats – is always the IUCN Red List. It’s certainly true of these wild Asian cattle. The Red List pages for each of them are loaded with information:

Banteng (Endangered)

Gaur (Vulnerable)

Kouprey (Critically Endangered – Possibly Extinct)

And, a little bit of light reading, should you be wondering whether creating non-native populations of threatened large animals outside their natural ranges is, or is not, even worth thinking about …

Collapse of the World’s Largest Herbivores, Ripple et al, Sci Adv. 2015 May; 1(4)

As I said in the podcast, I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know things aren’t going that well so far …

Music

Opening Theme: Running Waters by Audionautix (Jason Shaw), from audionautix.com. Creative Commons Attribution Licence.

Closing Theme: Acoustic Meditation by Audionautix (Jason Shaw), from audionautix.com. Creative Commons Attribution Licence.

SFX created using samples uploaded to freesound.org by Omar Alvarado and GuntherDorksen.

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