New plot for wild bull that lost it

The gaur in its new domain

Vietnam Heritage, May-June 2011 -- A wild bull, a Bos gaurus, or gaur, of almost half-a-tonne left its herd and the forest to follow cows that belonged to farmers in Bac Ray 2 Village, Phuoc Binh Commune, Bac Ai District, in the southern Central Vietnamese province of Ninh Thuan. Because of its ‘love’ for the cows, the wild bull killed a domestic bull, seriously injured three people and destroyed dozens of hectares of crops.
I went to the province’s Phuoc Binh National Park and a member of the Park management, Mr Dao Chung, volunteered to show me to Bac Ray 2 Village, 5 km off. The village consisted of just over 100 houses standing here and there in a small valley.
We talked to a man who had just arrived home from his farm, who said, ‘When it first came, the villagers were very worried. When it injured the boy Tem, the whole village got terrified. Now people are not so afraid, because we are a bit used to it.’
When Mr Chung and I walked over a bridge at one end of the village, we saw it, black, big and prominent among about 50 domestic cows grazing unhurriedly about 250 metres from us. ‘Around the wild bull are mostly cows. No other bull dares stand within 10 metres of it. It is like a king among pretty imperial maids,’ Mr Chung said.
When we were 20 m from the bull, it looked up and stared at us. When we took a few more steps, it shook its head continuously while breathing out noisily. We stopped immediately. Fifteen minutes passed and perhaps it didn’t feel any danger, so it looked down and grazed on grass and green maize.
I moved three more metres towards it and held up my camera to take some pictures. It dug and scratched the ground, sending earth flying around with its front legs, then hit the ground with its head. ‘It’s getting more angry. You should be careful,’ Mr Chung said. ‘If you want to go near it, you must wait till it is near a big tree. If it attacks you then can run round the tree and escape.’
The deputy manager of the 20,000 ha Phuoc Binh National Park, Mr Pham Ngoc Hoan, said, ‘The bull began its love adventure nearly two years ago.’
‘In about April, 2009, the villagers saw it at the edge of the forest for several days. We kept an eye on it and thought it would go after a few days; but to our surprise it is still staying here.’
‘There are two herds of [wild] bulls and cows in Phuoc Binh Park,’ Mr Hoan said. Each herd consists of 18 to 20 animals. There might have been a fierce fight for the position of the head of a herd. This bull might have been head of a herd before, but another bull might have taken over the reign and this bull might have left the herd to save its skin.’
‘It might have looked for some new taste of a different cow species, so it left its throne and came to this place. It must be happy here because it is king here and can choose any cow it wants.’
Mr Dinh Van Hoan, a wild-animal expert said, ‘When it first came, it killed a domestic bull, but it had love for cows and never attacked calves. One night, about a fortnight after it arrived, it crossed the river, entered the village and went straight to the households with cows. It only left when the villagers shouted and made a lot of noise with pots and pans. It has so far entered the village four times.’
Mr Nguyen Cong Van, director of Phuoc Binh National Park, said, ‘I asked about ten people on our staff to set up a camp near where it appeared, to drive it back into the forest. Perhaps it loved the cows here, so it came back after a couple of days. We could drive it away three or four times and then it was not afraid any more and began to stay here.’
Mr Van added, ‘In April 2010, a boy threw a stone at it and the bull injured the boy in the head, peeling off a piece of skin. About four months ago, a man named Thanh videoed it with his cell phone and the bull attacked Thanh and hit him in the face with its hind leg. A boy called Tem was hit in the backside. The boy’s family thought the boy would die, so they came to our office and said they would kill the bull if the boy died.’
Mr Van said, ‘I saw anger in their faces, so I asked 30 people to make noise to drive the bull away, but it was not afraid at all. Over the past year, we have made several plans to drive it back into the forest. But all the plans have failed. The bull must have been hated by its herd, so it would never join them again. We have even thought of rendering it unconscious and moving it to another forest, but it is difficult, as around the world people have only moved elephants and tigers, never bulls. Experts are still unable to help a bull from one herd join another herd.’
The management of Phuoc Binh National Park were thinking about finding ‘wives’ for the bull. Mr Hoai, deputy director, said, ‘We are thinking of setting up an area of 30 hectares for it. Then we will try buying five big cows to put in the area. People say the bull has had a calf with a domestic cow and has been mating with other cows. [The plan] will protect the villagers’ life and property, because when the bull is with cows all day long it won’t make trouble any more. It is a pity we don’t have the money to implement the plan.’

text and pictures by Nguyen Dang Khoa
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