The population of the Philippines' dwarf buffalo, one of the world's rarest animals, has grown to its largest since efforts to save them from extinction began, conservationists said Friday.
An annual survey counted 382 tamaraws in a protected mountain area this year, an increase from 345 in 2013, according to data from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The tamaraw, famed for its distinct v-shaped horns, can be found only in the mountains of Mindoro, a farming island in the central Philippines.
The stocky tamaraw, with its chocolate brown coat, runs wild in the forest and weighs half as much as the more common carabao, which is used by farmers in the Philippines to plough rice fields.
"The tamaraw is the flagship species of the Philippines. It is our moral obligation and international commitment to preserve them," forest ranger Rodel Boyles, who heads a joint government and private sector conservation effort, told AFP.
"If they are not protected, the species might get wiped out in five years," he said.
The tamaraw is considered "critically endangered" -- two steps away from extinction -- by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Hunting and the destruction of their habitat to make way for grazing areas for cattle led to their near decimation, as the population fell from 10,000 in the 1900s to just 154 by 2000, according to the WWF.
Dwarf Buffalo Charges Against Extinction: Page 2