The wild buffalo (Bubalus arnee) has many names in record like wild water buffalo, wild Asian buffalo, Asiatic buffalo. It is an endangered bovine species listed in IUCN red list.
The wild buffalo (Bubalus arnee) has many names in record like wild water buffalo, wild Asian buffalo, Asiatic buffalo. They belong to the bovine family and are listed as Endangered in IUCN Red List. They are the huge mammals, found in forested areas. Their wide-spread horn distinguishes them from domestic water buffaloes. In the last 35 years, their population has fallen drastically which made them listed in endangered animals list and not commonly seen in any forest area. As their name suggests, they are water buffaloes thus they were mostly spread over river belts region where they gets vast grasslands and sufficient water availability. Earlier they were spread over a vast area of south Asia covering India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka. With the passage of time, their presence decreased to few countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar. Their major population concentration is in India, especially North-East India.
At present, approx. 4000 wild water buffaloes are living on earth in which majority of them are in India only. In last 40 years, their population in the world has fallen drastically due to different reasons. In past wild water buffaloes were present in a eastern belt of India which includes forests of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh etc. But due to their habitat loss, forest corridor loss, pressure of human population, their population has fallen consistently. At present, their population is concentrated in limited pockets only in which major concentration is in North East India and very limited wild buffaloes are found in Chattisgarh state. They are common in Assam state where as rare in Chattisgarh state
Wild water buffalo has an ashy-grey to black skin. Color of their skin changes from childhood to adulthood. It is a large animal with average body weight of 900 kgs which is higher in bovidae family. Here males are heavier than females.In compare to domestic buffaloes, their body weight is more and fitness is good. Body weight of male ranges from 800 - 1200 kgs where as female weight ranges from 300 - 800 kgs. Their full body length i.e. from head to tail is 240 -290 cms. or 7.5 - 9.5 ft. Here tail length is of 60 -90 cms or 2-3 ft. whose end is bushy. Their shoulder height ranges from 5.5 - 6.5 ft. Their unique identification mark is their flat-curved long horns and flat back which distinguishes them from domestic buffaloes. Their horn could be of 100 cms. The width of horn is maximum at the origin and keep of decreasing towards end. Their calves are hairy and appears more brownish in color but with the aging their body color changes to dark grey to black and the body becomes hairless. In compare to their physique, their legs seems short thus they can’t run too fast (50kms/hr). Their hearing capacity is good and eye sight is moderate. Their smelling power is very good which helps them in sensing the presence of other nearby animals.
Life-span of wild water buffalo ranges from 12 - 24 years in wild. They are more under threat of predators during their early days thus mostly remain with their mother. Tigers or other predators usually stay away from them but may attack on their calves or old isolated buffalo. Life span can be increased if kept in enclosure. The Rinderpest disease in domestic buffalo is dangerous for wild buffaloes. When they were grazing in close vicinity to human establishment, they often came into contact with domestic buffalo and thus disease was pass on to them and often realized to authorities, after many uncommon deaths.
Breeding season of wild water buffaloes is end of monsoon season i.e from September to October. In this period, we can find them in pairs. However we can find many exceptions also as they can do mating throughout the year. Their gestation period is of 10-11 months (310-330 days) thus if mating took place in October month then we can expect calf in next monsoon around August month. Many calves birth took place in period from March to May which shows that mating goes on even during beginning or mid of monsoon season. Estrus cycle of female wild buffaloes is of 21 days. Female usually give birth to one calf at a time but in rare cases we can find twins. Here sexual maturity age of males is 18 months where as females is 36 months for females. Calf remains with mother for first one year thus difference between of two matings will be of usually 2 years which means one female can give births 9-10 calves in her normal lifespan. While living close to human establishment, inter-breeding between wild & domestic buffaloes is common which is not good for them should be avoided. Fight between bulls is another common part of their breeding season. These fights often results into death of one of the opponent and winner becomes owner of females in herd. In such case, looser male have to leaves the place.
As per their names, wild water buffaloes are mostly found in river valleys, moist regions, wetlands with vast grasslands. River valleys are their most common habitats. They are terrestrial animal. They prefers alluvial grasslands, riparian forests, woodlands. They are mostly seen in plains, meadows with tall grass jungles with some nearby waterholes. They prefers moderate climatic conditions which means not too hot or dry and not too cold thus they can’t be seen in desert regions, snowfall regions. In India, they were spread from south to north-east India.
Wild buffaloes are basically grazers. They are herbivores animals thus their feeding is mainly on graminoids (herbaceous plants with a grass like morphology). They not only consume Bermuda grass, Cyperus sedges but also consume other herbs, shrubs, barks, fruits, aquatic plants. In addition to this, while grazing near human establishments, they can be seen on farmers land also, grazing on crops like rice, jute, sugarcane etc. which sometimes lead to human-animal conflict. They mostly do the grazing in early morning or evening hours. They spend daytime in mud wallows or swampy areas. They also have their territory whose area is decided as per availability of food, water, mating partner and size of herd. Usually they have territory ranging from 2 sq. kms. to 6 sq. kms.
Social life of wild water buffaloes are interesting. Here it is interesting to note that herds are mainly of adult females and calves. If calf is male member, then on attaining sexual maturity, they leave the herd. If calf is female, she will remain with maternal herd. Size of herd varies from 5 to 30 members. Such herds are not well organized thus they are together by chance only. Unlike females, males are mostly solitary. They are often seen solitaire in forest area. During monsoon or end of monsoon, it was their mating period thus males look for female herd and try their luck for mating. They start approaching to female herd to check females in estrus and thus try their luck. Conflict between male members is possible during mating period and such conflicts often results into death of one contestant. Once mating is over, male member again leave the female thus overall responsibility of gestation period and bringing up of calf lies on female only.
In India, wild water buffaloes are concentrated to few states only i.e. Chattisgarh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh. Here also we can find them in protected forest areas like Kaziranga, Manas national park, Dibru-Saikhowa national park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Udanti-Sitanadi tiger reserve. In North-Easter India, they can be seen outside reserve forests also but due to inter-breeding with domestic buffaloes, it would be difficult to recognize them and differentiate them. In Chattisgarh, their population is almost towards the end thus project is going on to revive their population in which few wild water buffaloes were bought from Assam and used for controlled breeding program in enclosure. Best time for wild water buffalo safari is monsoon end and winters i.e. from October to March months.