Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024








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Family : Bovidae
Species : Bos javanicus

Shoulder height : up to 170 cm
Head-body length : up to 2.25 metres
Tail : up to 70 cm
Weight : up to 800 kg

Banteng (or Tembadau) are a species of wild cattle which occur in a variety of habitats including semi-open forest, forest-edge, grassland and riverine areas. They have been recorded up to 2100 metres elevation. The species is categorised as endangered.

In areas where there is hunting pressure they tend to be nocturnal, but when left undisturbed they tend to be diurnal. As a result of disturbance, competition for space and hunting, Banteng are increasingly forced to eke out an existence in closed forest, where there is less  ground-level vegetation.

Their diet comprises various grasses and sedges, as well herbs, some bamboo and other fibrous, woody vegetation. They are also known to visit natural mineral licks in search of nutrients, in common with Elephant and Asian Tapir.

Bulls are dark brown to black with a broad skull and narrow, rounded horns. Cows are light brown to orange-brown, as are juveniles, and have a narrower skull, and smaller, curved horns. Both sexes have legs that are white from the knee to the hoof, have a white rump and typically a white band around the muzzle.

Banteng herds are typically small - around 5 or so adults, though historically herds were much larger - up to 25 or so. Males which have not attracted a harem may remain solitary or form small, male-only herds.

There are a number of domestic strains of this species, particularly in Indonesia, which are lighter in build and are known as 'Bali Cattle'. Interbreeding can occur between Banteng and domestic cattle.

Banteng occur in parts of southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Indochina (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam),  Java and Borneo. In Peninsular Malaysia they became extinct in the 1950's, but a few have since been reintroduced to parts of Taman Negara.

Fig 1 : Male (foreground) and female Banteng, part of a small, introduced herd in Taman Negara, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 2 : A typical Banteng herd, comprising a single bull and a number of females.

References : M3, M5