|Bos javanicus d'Alton, 1823
Molecular analyses have demonstrated a closer affinity between Bos javanicus and B. gaurus than to B. taurus and B. indicus (Janecek et al., 1996; Buntjer et al., 2002). The banteng is a member of the subgenus Bibos
(Hodgson, 1837) with the gaur and the kouprey, and it was at one time
elevated to a genus. Domestic banteng, called Bali cattle, exist on the
islands of Bali and Madura, but most of them are no longer genetically
pure B. javanicus. Recent genetic introgressions of Bali cattle by B. indicus
have been revealed by molecular analysis (Handiwirawan et al., 2003;
Nijman et al., 2003; Verkaar et al., 2003). Three subspecies of banteng
are recognized: B. j. javanicus, B. j. lowi and B. j. birmanicus. However, further research is required to verify the taxonomy of this species.
Once widely distributed in south-east Asia, banteng are now restricted to small, fragmented populations. Bos javanicus javanicus is confined to a few protected areas on the island of Java and Bali. Bos javanicus lowi is restricted to the island of Borneo. Scattered small populations of Bos javanicus birmanicus still exist in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. B. j. birmanicus
has been extirpated in India, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, and
Peninsular Malaysia. There is also a very large, non-native, population
of banteng in northern Australia (see below). Only 7 populations with
more than 50 banteng now remain in the native range: 4 in Java ( Ujung
Kulon National Park, Baluran National Park, Alas Purwo National Park,
and Meru Betiri National Park), 2 in Thailand (Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife
Sanctuary and Om Koi Wildlife Sanctuary) and probably 1 in Cambodia
(Mondulkiri region); none in the natural range excess 500 individuals
(Ashby and Santiapillai, 1988; Srikosamatara and Suteethorn, 1995;
Soriyun, 2001; Pudyatmoko, 2004).
Banteng are sexually dimorphic.
Bulls have a dark-brown to black pelage depending on their geographic
origin. Female and juvenile pelages are reddish-brown. The color of
males changes at around 5 to 6 years of age. Conspicuous white patches
exist around the muzzle, on the legs below the knees, and on rump. The
horns are slender, curved and more developed in adult males. The horns
of males grow to 60 to 75 cm in length and are connected at the base by
a horn-like patch on the forehead, which is characteristic of banteng .
The horns of females are short, tightly curved and point inward at the
tips. Females have no important muscular development of the neck and
shoulders. Banteng is the smaller member of the subgenus Bibos.
Males reach 1.80 m with a maximum body mass of 800 kg; females can
reach 1.50 m and 650 kg. The banteng is considered to be the ancestor
of races of domestic cattle found in south-east Asia, i.e. the Bali
cattle. It has been domesticated during many years and, more recently,
hybridized with imported species of domestic cattle. Domestic Bali
cattle are difficult to distinguish from wild banteng; they normally
present weakly developed horns and off-white hind parts.
Banteng inhabit open dry deciduous,
mixed deciduous or evergreen forest, preferably in low elevation zones.
Forest clearance can benefit banteng as it provides them improved
feeding sites. Historical shifting cultivation in south-east Asia
provided banteng with suitable habitats, especially in Java
(Pudyatmoko, 2004). The optimal habitat of the banteng includes open
grassy areas and access to water and mineral licks. This species both
grazes and browses. When the food becomes less abundant during the dry
season, banteng shift from a high proportion of bamboo shoots in their
diet to forage on barks, and stay in low elevation zones
(Prayurasiddhi, 1997). They live in loose herds of 2 to 40 individuals
composed of caws and their calves and generally only one adult male.
Adult males in surplus live often alone or group together in bachelor
herds (Hoogerwerf, 1938 & 1970). An annual home range size of 44 km2
was reported for banteng herds in Thailand. There is no significant
change in home range size between the wet and dry seasons; daily
movement does not change between these seasons, and corresponds to
about 2.5 km per day for a herd (Prayurasiddhi, 1997). Growth is
sexually dimorphic; females reach their maximum size in three to four
years and males in five to six years. Sexual maturity occurs between
two and four years (Choquenot, 1993). They can reproduce every year; 1
or 2 calves will birth after a gestation period of 285 days
(Hoogerwerf, 1970). The average longevity is 14-17 years in the wild,
and up to 26 years in captivity. Density ranges from 0.3 banteng per km2 in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand (Prayurasiddhi, 1997), to 1 individual per km2 in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java (Hoogerwerf, 1970), and to 4 individuals per km2
for the non-native population of northern Australia (Bradshaw et al.,
2007). Banteng can be active during the day or the night, but they tend
to more nocturnal activities in areas where there is human disturbance
and hunting. Dholes (Cuon alpinus) have been reported to
severely impact the dynamic of the populations of banteng in both Alas
Purwo and Baluran National Park, Java. They mainly predate juveniles,
subadult and pregnant banteng cows, thus altering the age structure of
populations (Hedges and Tyson, 1996; Pudyatmoko, 2004).
number of banteng remaining in its native range is estimated to be only
3,000 to 5,000 individuals and the species is experiencing a rapid
decline across its entire range. There has been at least an 80%
reduction in the global banteng range in only 20 years (Hedges, 1996)
due to massive increases in human populations in south-east Asia.
Moreover, only a handful of large herds remain and other populations
are at risk of extinction due to both demographic and genetic
stochasticity. The main threats to this species are poaching, habitat
destruction and human encroachment, overgrazing by domestic cattle,
genetic introgression and disease transmission from livestock. Poaching
to sell the horns as trophies constitutes the main cause of
overexploitation of remnant populations even though the banteng is
legally protected across all its range. In 1849, 20 domesticated
banteng from Bali were introduced in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory,
Australia, during an unsuccessful attempt at European settlement in the
Cobourg Peninsula (Calaby, 1975). This founder population of banteng
has since proliferated and now numbers around 6000 individuals, still
ranging on the 2200 km2 of this remote peninsula (Bradshaw
et al., 2005). Molecular analysis has demonstrated that Australian
banteng are pure-strain of B. javanicus (Bradshaw et al.,
2006). Although non-native, these individuals constitute the
world’s largest population of banteng and number more than the
rest of the native banteng populations combined. Thus, they represent
an important demographic and genetic reservoir of this endangered
species and they could be use to reinforce declining populations of
banteng or to reintroduce this species in its former range. However,
this population has been affected by a severe bottleneck during its
introduction in Australia, and as such, its level of genetic
variability is probably reduced (Bradshaw et al., 2006). Ex situ conservation programs are implemented for banteng in US, Europe and Asia. Most of these captive individuals belong to B. j. javanicus.
Finally, several applications of assisted breeding technology have been
tried in this species, including semen cryopreservation, artificial
insemination, and interspecies embryo transfer (Johnston et al., 2002).
In 2003, an attempt was made to clone banteng in US, using DNA from
frozen banteng cells kept by San Diego Wild Animal Park.
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