The Gayo Buffalo and the Threat of Extinction |

in OCDlast month (edited)

ACEH is known for Gayo coffee, it's no wonder that Aceh coffee is already global. However, Aceh is known for buffalo, wait a minute. If you ask 10 Acehnese youth, maybe nine of them don't know. In fact, the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Indonesia has designated the Gayo buffalo as the wealth of Indonesia's local genetic resources through Decree Number: 302 / Kpts / SR. 120/5/2017 dated 4 May 2017. The recognition of the Gayo buffalo family as a wealth of local genetic resources is the second after in 2014 the Gayo horse also received similar recognition.

Ironically, in the midst of state recognition of the genetic wealth of local buffalo, the existence of the Gayo buffalo is increasingly not attracting the younger generation, including in the Gayo area itself. The Gayo buffalo was displaced by the aroma of coffee and horse braying.

The Gayo buffalo population is decreasing, wild buffalo herds are decreasing, even the only wild buffalo handler has died in 2017 and there is no known successor. In fact, the handler had already been summoned to Riau to handle wild buffalo.

Those are the findings of the research results of Abdullah Akhyar Nasution MSi, the head of the Malikussaleh University Anthropology Study Program. Akhyar - his nickname - made the area planning for the development of the Gayo buffalo farm as his dissertation.

Research on the Gayo buffalo led Akhyar to further knowledge about buffalo in the archipelago and the world. He studied a lot of literature and joined IBF. This is not a world boxing or badminton organization, but the International Buffalo Federation. From his explanation of the buffalo, he is more seen as a buffalo expert than an anthropologist.

The following are excerpts from my interview with Abdullah Akhyar Nasution regarding research on the Gayo buffalo, about the handsome man's concern about the sustainability of the buffalo, about his hopes, and about his recommendations that the local government needs to follow up on.

Abdullah Akhyar Nasution_Ayi Jufridar_03.jpg

Why are you interested in researching buffalo?
Maybe this is personal subjectivity, related to childhood experiences. There used to be a lot of buffalo in the village, but then they don't exist anymore. Second, when bringing students to Bintang, Aceh Tengah, in 2010.

After dawn, I sat around, there were men telling stories about buffalo that were released wild in the past. In the past, there were only two causes for buffalo to decrease, namely entering a ravine or being eaten by a tiger. There is no other cause such as people not wanting to care for buffalo.

From there interested in researching buffalo?
It’s correct. It turns out that in Sumatra there are only two regions that use the illegal escape system. One in Pampangan, Ogar Komering Ilir, South Sumatra. There, the Regent has even designated illegal areas.

The other one is at Gayo Lues. But this tradition is diminishing. Starting in 2017 I started trying to explore illegal freelancing practices. Finally, we met a handler in Terangon, Gayo Lues. He has experience catching wild buffalo, all the way to Riau. He talked a lot about the wild free buffalo that had decreased. At that time he only handled two or three wild mobs.

What did you do after that?
In 2018, I continued my doctoral study and finally decided to focus on regional planning from the anthropological aspect and concentrating on the development of livestock areas, especially the Gayo buffalo.

I found that there are several variations of the wild buffalo. First, it is released by the handler, the owner is different from the handler. Even the handler sometimes doesn't have a buffalo. The duty of the handler, call and care for wild buffalo. On the way there was a handler who died, so the buffalo could not be called, so it went wild.

Abdullah Akhyar Nasution_Ayi Jufridar_02.jpg

They like ronin?
Hahahahaha, more or less like that. The buffalo horde went wild because they had no master. Second, there are buffalo that are deliberately left out. Still released with the handler or without the handler, with the certain ritual release. In Gayo Lues and Pampangan the rituals are different. But that practice is running low.

Even though they were released wild, the buffaloes were still collected at one point. This point becomes a place for mineral salts, for buffalo nutrition. So, salt is piled in one place, that place is called the cage or uwer in Gayo.

Traditionally, it was not a cage as we see it today. At certain times, the buffalo herds are called to trample the ground. One group, usually without males, is under 20. With males, it can be above that. In one group, there is only one male. The leader of the pack is always female.

So, are they more gender-sensitive?
Hahahahaha. In the Gayo tradition, it is called ulu tawar, the dominant female. The male remains obedient to the female. In a buffalo herd, no more than one male.

The third variation?
The third variation, landlords who have hundreds of hectares of land, release their buffalo there. This tradition still exists in Gayo Lues. Of the several, recently the land has decreased. His name is inheritance.

What is unique about the buffalo tauke in Gayo is that their descendants are not interested in becoming buffalo tauke (read: the Boss). This is different from coffee farmers where their successors are more proud to continue the coffee plantation business. In fact, the Ministry of Agriculture has designated the Gayo buffalo as one of the distinctive clumps with genetic features.

What are the uniqueness of the Gayo buffalo?
More adaptive to the environment. In genus, the Gayo buffalo is actually a mud buffalo, but it has adapted and can survive at high altitudes. In Kalimantan, you play in the swamp.

Oh yes, there are still two other variants. Fourth, the cage is fenced in one or two acres. Can also be called semi-intensive. Buffalo food has been supplied, but there are still some who find their own food, the amount is limited. This fourth variant is relatively more common in Gayo Lues.

The fifth variant, intensive. One cage, one buffalo. Usually, this is for selling the meat.

Besides selling the meat, is there anyone who uses buffalo milk?
I found there was only buffalo milking in Blangkejeren (Southeast Aceh), but the volume was small. In fact, children used to drink buffalo milk instead of breast milk.
There is such a thing as kuah (sauce) Koro; buffalo milk cooked in salt. There is also pepire, buffalo milk cooked with cooked palm sugar. Now there is still koro sauce. It is called sauce, even though it is milk.

AKHYAR researches the zoning for the development of buffalo herds. According to him, the area must be protected for gangs that can be released illegally in government political decisions such as qanuns (regional regulations). This concerns the area of land and its sustainable carrying capacity. "But it is not easy," he said.

This is related to the buffalo home range as part of conservation land, which becomes a dilemma. About 73 percent of the area in Gayo Lues is a conservation area. Only 27-29 percent can be used. Whereas traditionally, this is a buffalo home range. "Hence, this research is expected to become an academic text in producing regional qanuns so that the Gayo buffaloes remain sustainable," hoped Akhyar.

The man who was born in Medan in 1979 recommended that the Gayo Lues Regency government determine the location of the buffalo area, then what the model is, and the progress can be monitored. In Gayo Lues almost all have a buffalo population. Over 500 individuals in Terangon, Tripe Jaya, Pantan Weather, which is in Rikib Gaib District. "And that's the Leuser zone," added Akyar.

During his research, his knowledge of buffalo was also increasing, although this was not included in his research. People understand the types of buffalo based on the color and shape of the horns. Regarding horns, there are at least seven groups of buffalo such as cawing, where one horn tapers up and one down.

Then there are gonok horns, both of which taper downward. Then there are the types of easy (horns displaying), durung (straight up), rukuk (same as durung but the tip of the horns is pointing back), gope (buffalo without horns), and rebah (elongated without arching).

Are all of the above types found in Aceh?
All of them are at Gayo Lues with a number of combinations such as skin color. In certain areas such as Tanah Toraja, the color of the buffalo skin determines the price. The skin color and shape of these horns have certain characteristics. For example, buffalo is easy with black skin, this type is hardworking and the meat is delicious. His body is bigger too.

There is also the lazy type, the type whose horns are curved downward. Public knowledge says so. There are many other characteristics that have distinctive characters. To prove whether it is true, it is not my scholarship to prove it.

Why is the current generation not interested in raising buffalo?
Apart from the issue of prestige, it is also considered economically unprofitable. Even though this is due to the cultivation pattern which is considered a side job. Though the main result. For big needs, the buffalo used to be relied on. Getting married, building houses, leaving for Hajj, the result is from buffalo. If you sell meat, a simple one can earn you Rp. 16 - Rp. 25 million.

This buffalo is also an indigenous animal. Certain colors and certain horns can be expensive in other areas. For example, the tedong lako color, black and white patches, hanging horns can be very expensive in certain areas. So, buffalo sustainability is not only an economic interest. There is a customary background behind it.

What are your goals for the future?
Apart from the political decision to preserve the Gayo buffalo, in the short term I also want to attend the World Buffalo Congress in China, October 2022. Hopefully someone will support the presence of representatives of Aceh, representatives of Indonesia at the meeting.

What are the benefits of attending the World Buffalo Congress?
Many, both for themselves and the region and even Indonesia. The world community must understand the richness of buffalo species in Indonesia. We hope that the IBF, which is based in Rome, will also support the preservation of various types of buffalo in Indonesia, including Gayo.[]


In my country, the buffaloes are seen but only for putting a cart or vehicle loaded with crops or other stuffs. But the numbers are also decreasing as well.

A very detailed and kinda exceptional post in this platform. Informative as well.