Written By: Marie Filipek
Today, ZooTampa will be celebrating the first ever “Action Indonesia Day”, joining over 38 organizations worldwide in the fight to save three important species: anoa, babirusa and banteng. Each of these species are only found in Indonesia and are an important part of their ecosystem. Unfortunately, all three of these species are threatened with extinction. By joining forces on “Action Indonesia Day,” we hope to raise awareness for these three incredible species, two of which call ZooTampa home: the anoa and the babirusa. We feel incredibly lucky to get to care for these species because only 7 AZA zoos care for anoa, and less than 20 AZA zoos care for babirusa, making them (in my opinion) some of Indonesia’s most mysterious animals!
One reason I like to think of anoa and babirusa as some of Indonesia’s most mysterious animals, is because there are still physical and behavioral characteristics of them that have scientists stumped! A babirusa’s most striking and defining feature are those curved tusks that grow through the top of their skull – but why that grow that way remains a mystery to scientists. They do have a couple ideas as to why, but neither has been proven quite yet. Do they grow that way to protect them in combat, like a football player wearing a helmet? Or are they used as display to court a female? As for anoa, these animals are so mysterious that not much is known about their day to day behavior in their natural environment. They tend to live in dense forests, so are quite elusive and hard to observe. It also remains a mystery as to whether or not there are two separate species of anoa. Scientists just aren’t sure!
Another reason these anoa and babirusa are some of Indonesia’s most mysterious animals is the fact that they are incredibly rare – there aren’t that many of them! Like I said earlier, not many AZA zoos have these two species, so not many people know about them. Also, these animals are naturally only found in Indonesia, no where else in the world, and their numbers are declining. There is an estimated 10,000 babirusa left and they have been categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As for anoa, there are estimated to be less than 2,500, classifying them as Endangered. Habitat loss and hunting are a source of decline for both species. Without our help, these animals could go extinct and all these mysteries would go unsolved.
However, what we can do to help is not a mystery at all – and that’s what “Action Indonesia Day” is all about! In 2006, the Action Indonesia Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) was created to bring together worldwide zoos, governments and conservation organizations to work together to save the anoa, babirusa, and banteng. By working together as a team, the GSMP can work toward creating healthy populations of animals in human care, share data and research between ex-situ (animals under human care at zoos, sanctuaries, etc) and in-situ (in the field) programs, and raise local and worldwide awareness for the conservation work being done to save these species. If you want to help save the anoa, babirusa and banteng you can visit ZooTampa to learn more about them and then simply spread the word about these amazing animals! If you’d like more information visitwww.actionindonesiagsmp.org. On August 18th, be sure to use #ActionIndonesia to share what you learned with your friends. Let’s do our part to make sure animals like anoa and babirusa are no longer a mystery!