Saving water buffaloes from extinction

6 June 2014, By Simona Zeroska

The reality is that many species are at the edge of extinction and it is up to us to protect them. It has direct impacts not only on biodiversity, but also on green economy and sustainable consumption and production, which will be in the run up to the first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).

The water buffalo captured my attention, first because it is in my country, more precisely in the neighborhood of my town, and second because it is important in the process of biodiversity.

Only 50 years ago there were 30,000 Water Buffaloes in the Republic of Macedonia. Today, only a handful remain and these are only alive thanks mainly to the efforts of the people of Debreshte village. Debreshte is a small village near Prilep, located in Southern Macedonia. It is a place where time has stopped. In the past, almost all of the households were buffalo breeders, relying on the milk of the animals for their livelihoods. Down the years, however, they were gradually replaced by cows in many parts of the country and their number decreased.

We discovered that the 13 female buffaloes living in our village, kept by one farmer, were pretty much the last in the country. With no male to mate with, these buffalo had not given birth in over three years, and so their milk production had halted. Without the milk, there is no point for breeders to keep the animals, meaning they were destined to be killed for meat.

In order to help in the process of saving the last species of water buffaloes in Macedonia, a male buffalo was donated to the breeder. After his arrival, all of the females were impregnated, their milk production was regenerated and therefore the breeder’s motivation to keep the animals.

Many people are aware of how close we came to losing this buffalo in Macedonia. The breeders now have their livelihoods, the tradition of producing cheese is saved, and more importantly the breeders self-respect is back. It is crucial for self-sufficiency and long-term sustainability.

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