[Like my last post, this concerns an animal whose descendants are common farm animals. But it is also a Brief Encounter for the New Year!]
Water buffalo, Bubalus bubalis, have been domesticated for around 5000 years, but their progenitor the wild water buffalo, Bubalus arnee, is now rare. The IUCN Red List considers them Endangered. The global population is estimated at 3,400, and 90% of these are in Assam, especially in Kaziranga.
We saw them in Koshi Tappu in Nepal, which has around 400, and of course in Kaziranga. They are huge, the males weighing up to 1200Kg or 2600lbs.
In Koshi Tappu, we followed one along a park road and you can get a sense of his size and power, and those horns, which can spread up to 2 meters, the largest of any living bovid:
In Kaziranga, a male is scenting to see if a female is receptive.
He follows her out into the lake, still checking her perfume. The Greater Adjutant Stork is unimpressed, but then he is nearly five feet tall, up to the shoulder height of a smallish wild water buffalo.
The female buffalo’s pheromones seem to be sufficiently fragrant to win his approval..
But they will go somewhere more private for consummation. And months later (about 320 days gestation, and a few months more) this will be the result; they are brown at birth and don’t start to darken till about 6 months of age:
One of the threats to the wild water buffalo is interbreeding with the domestic population, and indeed we watched them wandering in amongst domestic herds, but these are all wild.
PS Note the cattle egret following the baby around, hoping for insects disturbed by its hooves.