How the water buffalo is saving other animals from extinction

A creative way to preserve animal species
What kind of animal is the water buffalo?
Back into European wildlife after 120,000 years
They are on the Red List of Threatened Species
Grazing
Water buffalo are architects of the wetlands
How does it work?
They keep water points open and clear
Grazing instead of mowing
They share moisture and mud with other animals
An opportunity for insects, amphibians and birds
Water buffalo break a dramatic cycle
And it works!
A success for the bird world
Black storks and other birds return
New biotopes thanks to the water buffalo
A creative way to preserve animal species

The water buffalo on European pastures: that's not a common sight. It could change, however, because conservationists have recently started deploying the animals as creative protectors of other animal species.

What kind of animal is the water buffalo?

The giant mammals, six feet high and weighing up to a ton, belong to the horned bovid family, just like cattle. They are found in the wild in Asia.

(Photo: Dawn McDonald / Unsplash)

Back into European wildlife after 120,000 years

This species lived in Central Europe about 120,000 years ago. It died out as a wild species but returned to southern Europe as a domestic animal 800 years ago.

(Image: Water buffalo on Selong Belanak beach in Indonesia Lombok, by James Scott / Unsplash)

They are on the Red List of Threatened Species

Wild water buffalo have all but disappeared and are on the Red List of Threatened Species. Their domesticated relatives like to tread wetlands, swamp forests and dense river valleys.

Grazing

Just like cattle, water buffalo are ruminants and ungulates, which means they are herbivores who extract nutrition from plants by grazing. Their eating and living habits can help other species survive in the wetlands.

(Image: Henrik Hansen / Unsplash)

Water buffalo are architects of the wetlands

Water buffalo are currently finding their way to pastures and heathlands in Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Their mission: creating and maintaining waterholes.

How does it work?

Unlike cattle, water buffalo cool themselves by lying in the water and turning over. When it is over 25 degrees Celsius (77° Fahrenheit), the animals prefer to roll in the mud. Their behavior creates (and maintains) water holes in the meadow that are very important for other organisms.

They keep water points open and clear

Water buffalo prefer the typical vegetation of the wetlands. They eat reeds, nettles and thistles. As such, they prevent existing water points from becoming overgrown.

(Photo: Phil Hearing/Unsplash)

Grazing instead of mowing

The water buffalo is characterized by its efficiency and robustness. It is therefore an ideal ecological mower. Many areas in Germany that had to be mowed at great expense due to flooding are now grazed by buffalo instead of mechanical mowers.

They share moisture and mud with other animals

Given their preference for wetlands, swamp forests and dense river valleys, water buffalo obviously require moisture and mud. And that is exactly what amphibians and many insects also need.

(Image: The water buffalo at work in Namibia, by David Manicum/Unsplash)

An opportunity for insects, amphibians and birds

Open, small bodies of water are the habitat and nursery of aquatic insects and amphibians.

Water buffalo break a dramatic cycle

Currently, one third of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction. And the insects are also decreasing more and more. As a result, birds can no longer find food. It is a dramatic cycle against which the water buffalo are welcome helpers.

And it works!

Insects use the pools created by water buffalo to lay their eggs. Biologists have also shown that the larvae of amphibians could survive dry summer periods thanks to water buffalo hoof spores filled with more than 30 centimeters of water.

A success for the bird world

Where there are insects and amphibians, birds do not stay away for long. Soon after water buffalo began grazing in European pastures, several bird species returned to those areas to forage for food.

(In the image: the lesser spotted eagle)

Black storks and other birds return

Even endangered species such as the lesser spotted eagle or the black stork (pictured) have been sighted.

New biotopes thanks to the water buffalo

In Germany, more than 6,000 animals already graze in the humid lowlands. From Lake Constance and the Lower Rhine to the pastures near Cologne's airport, more and more places are the scenes of environmental projects with the water buffalo as the protagonist.

Más para ti