The lowland anoa (Bubalus depressicornis) and the mountain anoa (Bubalus quarlesi)* are small bovines that are related to the water buffalo but that are scarcely bigger than goats.
Appearance and Size
Compared with other bovines, the anoa is tiny. It stands only 0.75-1 m tall at the shoulder. The mountain anoa is smaller than its lowland counterpart. The limbs are short, the body plump, and the neck thick.
Anoa horns are short and straight, reaching a maximum length of about 380 mm; they are ringed and triangular in cross section at the base in lowland species and simple and conical in cross section in mountain species.
Although the young are thickly covered with yellowish-brown woolly hair, the mountain anoa adults tend to have curly hair, while lowland anoa have straight hair or are hairless. Adults vary from dark brown to black, with frequent blotches of white on the face, nape, throat, and lower limbs. In mountain anoas the entire lower limbs are creamy white. The underbody parts are usually light brown. Males are generally darker than females.
The hide is exceptionally thick.
Anoas are native to dense, mature forests of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia.
Both species are abundant and well distributed on Sulawesi. Most of the northern, eastern, and southeastern peninsulas and the central area of Sulawesi are still forested and have anoa populations, and there are several large nature reserves to protect them. *
Several of the world's zoos have anoa collections (see Research Contacts).
Habitat and Environment
The climate of Sulawesi is hot, but tempered by sea winds; annual rainfall varies from 500 mm to 4,000 mm. The eastern and southeastern peninsulas have a sparse population and a scattering of subsistence agriculture.
The lowland species is found in forests and was once common along the coasts. The mountain anoa is found in primary forests at high altitudes.
Anoas have a wide-ranging diet that includes grasses, ferns, saplings, palm, ginger, and fallen fruit, especially figs. It is of particular interest that the animals can live on a diet that contains no grass.
Anoas have a high requirement for minerals. They visit mineral-rich hot springs and salt licks, and they even drink from the sea.
The San Diego Zoo in the United States and Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia have successfully bred and reared the animals in captivity. The gestation period is 276-315 days, and there is generally only a single birth. The life expectancy is about 20-25 years.
Anoas are shy animals, but they can be aggressive. The sideways and upwards stab of their straight, sharp horns can be dangerous.
Except when the cows are about to give birth, anoas apparently associate in pairs rather than in herds. They enjoy water and frequently wallow in mud. Their gait is a trot, but a times they make clumsy leaps. During the morning they feed alone. In the heat of the afternoon they seek refuge under shade trees.
On Sulawesi anoas are prized for their hide, horns, and meat. The flesh, especially that of calves, is tender and well flavored.
Although somewhat aggressive and pugnacious, anoas might make a suitable livestock animal. They grow and reproduce well in captivity and are adaptable and intelligent. Their small size makes them easier to handle than many other wild bovines.
Little is known about the habits of these animals because of their wary nature, secluded environment, and restricted range. They can be tamed enough to obey commands ("lie down," for example) but they remain nervous and likely to butt strangers.
Research and Conservation Needs
Surveys are needed throughout Sulawesi to determine the distribution and taxonomy of possible races of the two species, with a view to establishing a protected-area system that will ensure the survival of the genetic diversity of this group.
Research is also needed on social organization and tameability, as well as on the anoa's biological relationship to the tamaraw and water buffalo.
One target should be to build up the zoo populations of both species.