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Syncerus caffer

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA BOVIDAE

Scientific Name: Syncerus caffer
Species Authority: (Sparrman, 1779)
Common Name(s):
English African Buffalo
Taxonomic Notes: Three or four subspecies are usually distinguished: Forest Buffalo (S. c. nanus); West African Savanna Buffalo (S. c. brachyceros); Central African Savanna Buffalo (S. c. aequinoctialis); and Southern Savanna Buffalo (S. c. caffer)

The interrelationships are unclear between the various described subspecies of the African Buffalo, but there is little doubt about the validity of the four subspecies recognized here. The three forms of the savanna buffalo are at least as distinct from one another as from nanus. These subspecies should clearly be distinguished for purposes such as trophy classification and assessment of conservation status. Other subspecies such as the "mountain" buffalo (mathewsi) of eastern Africa may also be valid. lntergrades occur where the distributions of the subspecies meet, including the boundaries between nanus and the savanna subspecies.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
Justification:
Listed as Least Concern as the species remains widespread, with a global population estimated at nearly 900000 animals, of which more than three-quarters are in protected areas. While some populations (subspecies) are decreasing, others will remain unchanged in the long term if large, healthy populations continue to persist in a substantial number of national parks, equivalent reserves and hunting zones in southern and eastern Africa.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species is distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but is now generally confined to protected areas, within which it is well represented, and other areas which are sparsely settled. In West Africa, they are now extinct in The Gambia, probably occur only as vagrants in Guinea, and the population in Mali’s Bafing Faunal Reserve is probably the country’s last (East 1999; Prins and Sinclair in press). African Buffalo are also extinct in Eritrea (East 1999). In South Africa, they have been reintroduced to areas from which they were formerly extirpated; likewise, they were reintroduced in Swaziland, where the indigenous population was extirpated.

African Buffalo were probably extirpated from Bioko Island sometime between 1860 and 1910 (Butynski et al. 1997).
Countries:
Native:
Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Liberia; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Regionally extinct:
Eritrea; Gambia
Reintroduced:
Swaziland
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: East (1999) produced a total population estimate of 830,000 for the three subspecies of savanna buffalo (27,000 West African Savanna Buffalo, 133,000 Central African Savanna Buffalo and 670,000 Southern Savanna Buffalo), probably conservative. East (1999) thought it likely that the total number of buffalo remaining in Africa’s savannas is in the approximate range of 500,000-1,000,000. Savanna buffalo populations are in decline over extensive areas because of meat hunting and continuing toss of habitat, and rinderpest continues to pose a major threat to these subspecies in some regions of Africa.

Few population estimates are available for the forest buffalo. It tends to occur locally at relatively high densities in open, grassy areas within the equatorial forest, but at much lower densities in extensive areas of continuous forest. East (1999) produced a total population estimate for the forest buffalo of about 60,000. This estimate is probably very conservative, but forest buffalo populations are in decline over most of the subspecies’ remaining range.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: African Buffalo inhabit a wide range of habitats, including semi-arid bushland, Acacia woodland, miombo Brachystegia woodland, montane grasslands and forest (to elevations well over 4,000 m asl), coastal savannas, and moist lowland rainforests. They are absent only from deserts and subdeserts, such as the Namib and the Saharan/Sahelian transition zone (Prins and Sinclair in press).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the past, numbers of African Buffalo suffered their most severe collapse during the great rinderpest epidemic of the 1890s, which, coupled with pleuro-pneumonia, caused mortalities as high as 95% among livestock and wild ungulates (Winterbach 1998). Rinderpest and other diseases such as anthrax have continued to result in localized declines and extinctions of populations throughout the 20th century, as rinderpest has spread from cattle to wildlife.

The species’ distribution and numbers have also been greatly reduced by habitat loss and poaching. It is a favourite target of meat hunters in many countries, and poaching has been a major contributor to the recent decline of buffalo populations in many protected areas, e.g., national parks such as Comoe (Ivory Coast), Garamba (Congo-Kinshasa) and Serengeti (Tanzania), and probably in many other areas. It is also susceptible to drought, which has caused substantial declines in some populations during the 1990s, alone or in combination with diseases such as anthrax or rinderpest, e.g., in Tsavo, Serengeti/Mara, Gonarezhou and Kruger (East 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: About 70% of the population of the three savanna buffalo subspecies occurs in and around protected areas, including: Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks (Uganda), Tarangire, Moyowosi-Kigosi, Katavi-Rukwa and Selous-Kilombero (Tanzania), Kafue and North and South Luangwa National Parks (Zambia), Chobe (Botswana), Sebungwe and the Middle Zambezi Valley (Zimbabwe), Hluhluwe-iMfolozi (South Africa) (Southern Savanna Buffalo), Mole (Ghana), Pendjari (Benin) and the national parks and hunting zones of North Province (Cameroon) (West African Savanna Buffalo), and Zakouma (Chad), and Sangba (CAR) (Central African Savanna Buffalo).

About 75% of the estimated total population of the forest buffalo occurs in nominally protected areas, including Lobeke (Cameroon) - Dzanga-Sangha (CAR) - Nouabale-Ndoki-Kabo (Congo-Brazzaville), Lope, Wonga-Wongue and Gamba (Gabon), Odzala (Congo-Brazzaville) and Maiko (Congo-Kinshasa).

The future status of this species is closely linked to the future of protected areas and well-managed hunting zones, since it is a frequent target of poachers.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group 2008. Syncerus caffer. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 26 July 2014.
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