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Water buffalo

Native to Asia, the water buffalo is a large bovid that has been associated with people since prehistoric times. It is one of the oldest species of domesticated livestock and continues to be used as a source of milk and meat in many countries.

Water buffalo were introduced to the Northern Territory between 1825 and 1843 to provide remote settlements with meat. The current population in the Northern Territory is now estimated at 80,000.

Water buffalo can cause significant environmental damage, particularly in wetlands.

The water buffalo is not a prohibited or restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Bubalus bubalis

Other names

  • Asian water buffalo, Asian buffalo, Asiatic buffalo

Similar species

  • Bison, domestic cattle, yak

Description

  • Large bovid 1.5-1.9m tall at shoulder, 2.4-3.6m long, males weigh up to 1,200kg, females up to 800kg.
  • Hair is sparse, ashy-grey or black.
  • Horns are heavy-set at base, ribbed and triangular in cross-section.

Habitat

  • Prefers tropical forests and wet grasslands.

Distribution

  • Not yet recorded in Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Gestation period is 300-340 days.
  • Usually 1 young per birth.
  • Can live up to 25 years in wild, 29 years in captivity.

Impacts

Environmental

  • Can cause significant environmental damage, particularly in wetlands.

Social

  • Consumes large amounts of grass and other plants and competes with native wildlife for food.

Natural enemies

  • Dingoes, crocodiles

Control

  • In Northern Territory, challenging nature of landscape and high costs make total eradication near impossible.
  • Aerial shooting is preferred method of control in rugged country.
  • Programs have been implemented to manage remaining buffalo.

Legal requirements

  • The water buffalo is not a prohibited or restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control.
  • Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.
  • Prohibited wildlife under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and can only be kept in Queensland under permit.

Further information