By preserving biodiversity and ecosystems, we are retaining the ability of the planet to sustain our prosperity


The slopes of Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park (MIBNP) serve as the tamaraws’ natural habitat. Tamaraws are found only in the island of Mindoro located in the central-west of the Philippines. Although commonly mistaken as a common water buffalo, its smaller stature, shorter tail and straight, v-shape horns distinguish it from the other buffalo species. Tamaraws are classified as a critically endangered species under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

In the early 1900s, its population was estimated at around 10,000. By the 1950s, the species was on the brink, dropping to around 200-250 due to a rinderpest outbreak of the 1930s. While latest counts show an increasing trend, the population of tamaraws are still significantly low at 523 head in early 2018.

“I was packing when my 6-year old daughter suddenly came and asked me. “Where are you going?” I said, I’m going to the mountains to see the Tamaraws. “What is a Tamaraw? What does it look like?” I couldn’t explain more because I haven’t seen one either. I just told her that when I get back, I’ll show her tons of photos of the Tamaraws, what they look like in real life, and how they live in their own natural habitat.

I’d like to tell my kid a story about the tamaraws, that somewhat she’d think it’s from a fairy tale book, and something she will remember when she grows up. I’d like her to know the importance of the tamaraws in our society, how they are now considered as critically- endangered animals due to loss of habitat, and more importantly, how they are being preserved by the people working towards conservation and beyond.”-

Mitch De Juan, mountaineer and social media influencer, BioCamper


“Habitat loss, hunting and poaching are the main threats to the tamaraws, ” according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) Coordinator, Maria Teresita “June” Pineda, Jr.-David.
Since its genesis in 1979, the Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) has been actively working to conserve and protect the tamaraws and their habitat. Ensuring the safety of the tamaraws means that rangers under the TCP must guard their posts in the national park and be away from their families for about a month, at a time. Receiving threats and dodging bullets from hunters are all part of the job.

Map of Mindoro Island where wild tamaraws can be found (Map created by the Biodiversity Management Bureau)

Despite having limited resources and dysfunctional patrolling equipment to guard the 2,500-hectare strict protection zone, TCP’s dedicated team along only 26 tamaraw rangers work hard to keep the tamaraws safe from hunters and poachers. Even without stable employment, rangers wholeheartedly perform their jobs without any health and security benefits.

Tamaraw rangers on top og Magawang station (Photo by Gregg Yan, Best Alternatives)

While the population of tamaraws is increasing – attributed to TCP’s efforts, the rangers along with the whole TCP team have yet to receive the funding and working conditions that they need and deserve.



Tamaraws thrive together with several tribes within the Park. These tribes are collectively called the Mangyans. Holding up to their indigenous and traditional practices, Mangyans depend on natural resources for livelihood including hunting tamaraws for food. TCP ensures that there is continuous dialogue with the Mangyans to include them in the effort to protect the tamaraws and conserve MIBNP.

The Taw’buids, the largest of eight Mangyan tribes, is working together with TCP in its conservation efforts. Some tribes-folk are serving as tamaraw rangers as well as porters at the Park recognizing that they have their role to play as inhabitants of the Park because if the tamaraws in the wild disappear, they too, will suffer.

An elderly Taw-buid passes by the BioCampers and proudly poses for the camera (Photo by Nella Lomotan)


October is the special month for the conservation and protection of Tamaraws in Mindoro declared through Presidential Proclamation No. 273. In support of last year’s Tamaraw Month, UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) co-organised the second Biodiversity Camp (BioCamp) held annually by TCP since 2013.

Since 2017, BioCamp immerses participants in the tamaraws’ natural habitat and culminates in the viewing of the tamaraws in the wild. With the objective of raising awareness on the need to mobilize funds for the protection and conservation of biodiversity, BIOFIN partnered with the TCP which is part of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and sponsored the 2018 BioCamp.



The BioCamp involved journalists and social media influencers with huge followings ranging from thousands to millions of followers in the Philippines and around the world. The 3-day BioCamp involved hiking and traversing Mt. Magawang as it offers a view of the Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park, where the wild tamaraws inhabit.

The BioCamp led to large media exposure through traditional and social media in the Philippines highlighting the need for more financing for tamaraw conservation. It is estimated the media value of the stories amounted to Php 1.8 million (USD 35,000) (as of December 2018). Donations were also received for the TCP including computer equipment and food for the rangers.

Gab Visenio of Thirt Five Studios his fellow BioCampers while biking to Station 2 (Photo by Kim Lim, Sunny16 Lab)

Additionally, a local conservation group called Eco Explorations arranged a similar activity where part of the proceeds from the registration fees goes towards to tamaraw conservation, particularly for patrol equipment and rangers’ uniforms. The group plans to sustain this activity and conduct it every month for educational purposes.

The media personalities on the BioCamp are keen to support further BIOFIN activities such as crowdfunding campaigns and the “Year of the PAs” campaign to raise awareness and mobilize resources for biodiversity by writing the stories captured behind their camera lenses.


The UN World Wildlife Day is celebrated on March 3 to raise awareness of the world’s wildlife. Since 2013, it has been the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife. The past World Wildlife Days have underpinned issues such as wildlife crimes, youth’s role in wildlife conservation, and animals under threat such as elephants and big cats. This year’s World Wildlife Day will be under the theme “Life below water: for people and planet”, which aligns with goal 14 of UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The Philippines’ target for wildlife conservation is “By 2028, the conservation status of nationally and globally threatened species in the country from 2016 levels is maintained or improved.”
Philippines is a biodiversity powerhouse, containing some of the world’s most unique and varied species in the world. Target 1 of the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) – the country’s roadmap to conserving its biodiversity – seeks to maintain or improve the conservation status of nationally and globally threatened species in the country.

To date, other endemic animals and plants in the country are experiencing the same fate as that of the tamaraws and threatened with extinction. These include the Philippine Eagle, Negros Bleeding-Heart, Visayan Warty Pig, Dinagat Bushy-Tailed Cloud Rat , Philippine Tarsier , and many more.

A herd of wild tamaraws seen at Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park (Photo by Gregg Yan, Best Alternative)


One of the major threats to biodiversity in the Philippines is over-exploitation, along with habitat loss, pollution, proliferation of invasive alien species, and harmful effects brought about by climate change. As a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Philippines has set 20 national targets to conserve and sustainably manage its natural resources while ensuring equal access and sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.
At the same time, Philippines stands firm in its obligation as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

According to the Fourth National Report (4NR) of the of the Philippines to the Convention on

Biological Diversity, from 2005 to 2013, the monitoring conducted by DENR field staff under its Philippine Raptors Conservation Program yielded an increase in sightings of the critically endangered Philippine eagle in the wild. However, this number is not reflective of an increase or decrease in population.
Also in the Fourth National Report, conservation and protection efforts were boosted with the discovery of Philippine eagles in various locations in Apayao from 2011-2013, rediscovery of the species in Burauen, Leyte in December 2012, and successful breeding and hatching in December 2013 of a new eaglet “Atbalin,” the fourth offspring of a pair of Philippine eagles in the wild in Zamboanga del Norte.


“Biodiversity is “nature” – life on Earth. Biodiversity includes living organisms and ecosystems that underpin human well-being and economies by providing the essentials to a healthy and productive human life, like clean air, food security and fresh water. Investments in biodiversity are investments in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), contributing directly to poverty reduction, resilience and long-term economic growth and sustainability. Many of the most vulnerable people across the world depend directly on biodiversity to fulfill their daily subsistence needs. By preserving biodiversity and ecosystems, we are retaining the ability of the planet to sustain our prosperity.” -Biodiversity Finance Initiative Workbook 2018

In the Philippines, finance solutions are being implemented and tested to mobilise new resources, realign priorities towards mainstreaming biodiversity in plans and programs, deliver better biodiversity outcomes, and avoid future costs. BIOFIN’s vision in the Philippines is “to attain a financing envelope for biodiversity totaling 20 billion pesos by the year 2020, measured from a baseline of 5 billion pesos,” while working strategically with both the public and private sectors.

BIOFIN contributes to closing the financing gap for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity by identifying, accessing, combining and sequencing sources of biodiversity funding to finance the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP). BIOFIN has calculated that the PBSAP implementation will cost PhP24B/year or PhP334B (USD 7.4B low estimate) from 2015 to 2028.

However, public expenditure was estimated at only P4.9B/year (USD 110M), thus a gap of almost PhP19B (USD 349M) annually. Several finance solutions to address the gap were identified and are being piloted by BIOFIN. See some of the these finance solutions in the video below.


Interested to throw in a hand for the tamaraws and other endangered and threatened species in the Philippines? Send us a message at

A single act, big or small, can go a long way.

BIOFIN would like to thank the following people for making the BioCamp a success and for scaling up the conservation buzz needed to raise awareness on the state of the the tamaraws, its habitat and the rangers and for their dedication to conserving biodiversity in the country: Jes Aznar of New York Times, Getty Images and Everyday Philippines; Gregg Yan of Best Alternatives; Celine Murillo of The Poor Traveler; Gab Mejia, WWF National Youth Council and Nikon Philippines ambassador; travel enthusiasts Nella Lomotan and Mitch de Juan; Kim Lim of Sunny16 Lab; Bernard Magcarang and Maricor Montalbo of SinoPinas; and Gab Visenio and Derald Umali of Thirty Five Studio.

Footnotes: Story by Angelique Ogena, Information and Communications Assistant, BIOFIN Philippines; Edited by James Maiden, Communications Specialist, BIOFIN Global; Cover photo and Kalibasib shot by Gab Mejia