Buffalo population in decline

Three buffaloes run neck and neck as they approach the final lap at Chon Buri’s annual buffalo race last October. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Farmers are being urged to continue keeping native buffaloes as beasts of burden as numbers of the animal, once a critical part of the rice farming industry, have rapidly declined.

There are currently about 800,000 buffaloes in the country, compared with about 1.3 million in 2009, according to figures published by the Department of Livestock Development.

As rice farming has become increasingly mechanised, few farmers still raise and use native Thai buffaloes to plough fields, which explains the fast decline in their numbers.

However, this has meant the value and price of local buffalo breeds have gone up, according to Sombat Thamla-iat, former president of the Association for Thai Buffalo Conservation and Development.

May 14 each year is National Thai Buffalo Conservation Day.

Mr Sombat said he keeps more than 120 giant buffaloes, each weighing more than a tonne, which are recognised as one of the most beautiful breeds of Thai buffaloes. The beasts are now worth more than 20 million baht altogether, he said. A five-year-old male buffalo, named Kao Charoen, weighing 1.3 tonnes, won a royally bestowed award in a contest of beautiful buffaloes last year, he said.

While Kao Charoen was being taken to the show, someone had asked to buy it for 20 million baht, an offer which Mr Sombat turned down, he said.

Duangphon Saephueak, owner of the Chai Nat Phatthana Khwai Thai Farm, said she wants to encourage more people to keep Thai buffaloes, at least as a hobby.

She took a five-year-old male buffalo, weighing 1.1 tonnes, to a contest held on Tuesday at Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University in Phitsanulok, an event held to mark National Thai Buffalo Conservation Day. The buffalo has a price tag of 1.5 million baht.

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