What is a Saola? Where is it From? Why is it Endangered?
Protecting the Earth's Natural Habitat
Unusual Animal Skulls Were Found in Vu Quang Nature Reserve in Vietnam in 1992
Recently I heard about an elusive creature, which is currently in critical danger from extinction. In 1992 at the Vu Quang Nature Reserve in Vietnam, a wildlife charity was working alongside the Vietnamese government when they stumbled upon some very unusual skulls in an indigenous hunter’s home. The skulls were like nothing that had ever been found before and the news of this newly discovered species was an incredible discovery for the scientific community.
That was the point when the Saola was discovered and heralded to be one of the most significant scientific finds of modern times.
The Elusive and Beautiful Saola
What is the Saola?
The Saola is a mysterious creature, which is so elusive hardly any information, is available on it. The information which is available, is based on local villager’s accounts of their sightings.
The creature is part of the bovine family, which surprisingly makes it's closest relative cattle. It has two long horns and a dark brown coat which features both a black stripe and multiple white markings. The Saola stands approximately 90cm high and weighs around approximately 90kg.
Living in the Annamite Range and in Laos
It exists exclusively, in forest locations in the Annamite Range in Vietnam, and also in Laos. Inhabiting forest areas at heights well above sea level in the wet season, it does appear to come down to lower levels when the rainy season stops.
It is not usually spotted near inhabited villages and lives on a diet of vegetation and leaves.
Our Disappearing World
The Asian Unicorn
Although the Saola has two horns it has been referred to frequently in the media as the Asian Unicorn. It seems to have been given this name due to it's elusive, mysterious nature and the fact that even after two decades there is still very little known about it.
Despite ongoing research, no scientist has ever sighted a Saola, which has also added to the huge mystery surrounding the animal.
Another very sad aspect which adds to the mystique of the beautiful creature is it's apparent inability to exist within captivity
No Saola has ever Survived in Captivity
No Saola has ever Survived Captivity
On the few instances when Saola have been captured by local villagers, they have not survived. The last recorded time was in 2010 when villagers had captured a male Saola. By the time the authorities had arrived to see the animal, unfortunately it had died. The Saola has never survived being captured which has led to the commonly held belief that it cannot be kept in captivity.
The very fact that no Saolas exist within captivity, means that if they do reach extinction within the wild, then we have lost them forever.
Deforestation and Hunter's Traps
Although some deforestation has been evident in the limited area where it exist, it is not the main concern for it's longevity.
The increased road accessibility has led to an easier path for the hunters. The Saola itself although initially of interest to the hunters due to it's rarity, is not considered valuable for resale. The biggest threat to the Saola is the ever present danger of it becoming ensnared in traps. The traps aren't set for the Saola but for other animals, the ones which command a high price when sold on for their body parts. Sadly, the Saolas inadvertently falls prey to the hunter's snares.
Our Beautiful World is Always Worth Saving
Working as One to Save the Saola
This mysterious creature still has a chance of survival. The Vietnamese government has passed various laws to protect both it's habitat and also to outlaw anyone from harming the animal.
The various charities are working tirelessly trying to raise awareness, funding and trying to stop the threats it faces.
The 'Save the Saola Working Group' has been formed with leading experts from many countries coming together and working as one trying to save this incredible animal.
We may have lost the Dodo and many other unique creatures, but for the Saola there is still hope.
The Facts about the Saola
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The Elusive Saola has been Photographed in September 2013
UPDATE - The WWF have reported that the Saola has been photographed in September 2013 in Vietnam. The photograph of this incredible elusive creature is reported to be the first one that has been taken since 1998. The sighting is a very positive one and it provides some hope for the Saola's future.
Had You Heard about the Saola and it's Plight?
Did you know about the Saola's discovery and it's critically endangered status?
© 2013 Anna Haven