I am a bush. Heavily-camouflaged by a sniper’s Ghillie Suit and betrayed only by the scarlet glint of my field binoculars, I cautiously observe our quarry. A herd of tamaraws – emerging from a billowing field of cogon, not 50 meters away.
“We’re within charging distance,” warns our eagle-eyed tracker, Edgardo Flores. While hot, heavy and earthen-smelling, my leafy Ghillie Suit fools no one, as the buffalo herd stares right at us. Should they attack, Plan A was to scramble up the nearest tree. Plan B was well … we hoped Plan A would do.
Guided by spotters atop nearby Magawang Mountain, we took 30 minutes to approach this herd. Sloth-like, I exchange the binoculars for a telephoto, framing three buffalo forming a skirmish line, preparing to charge. As I click they bolt off, bounding back to the brush with more grace than any carabao can dream of.
I glance back at a smirking Ed. “Next group is behind that ridge. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
Along with Ed are Maryo, Rudy and Henry. Our Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recon squad has been sneaking up and down the grassy slopes of Occidental Mindoro’s Iglit-Baco Mountain Range for the past two days. Our goal is to photograph the world’s rarest and most endangered buffalo species, the tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) – less than 350 of which are thought to remain today.
I slink off my perch and silently follow Ed into the bush, thankful that neither plan was put to use. Yet. More....