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What is a Saola? Where is it From? Why is it Endangered?

Updated on July 3, 2014

Protecting the Earth's Natural Habitat

We must protect our wildlife's natural habitat.
We must protect our wildlife's natural habitat. | Source

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

Recently discovered but now critically endangered
Recently discovered but now critically endangered | Source

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.

A markerVu Quang National Park -
Vu Quang National Park, Vu Quang, Hà Tĩnh, Vietnam
get directions

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

Many things in our world are disappearing.
Many things in our world are disappearing. | Source

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

Unable to survive captivity.
Unable to survive captivity. | Source

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

Our beautiful World is Always Worth Saving.
Our beautiful World is Always Worth Saving. | Source

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?

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© 2013 Anna Haven


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    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Glad you enjoyed reading.

    • profile image

      hello anna 3 years ago


    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Very true FlourishAnyway, the world and it's creatures definitely deserve a lot more respect. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      I've never heard of this animal, so thank you for sharing the information. Overhunting and overdoing anything can certainly bring disastrous, irrevocable consequences.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Laurie

      Unfortunately it is just a media spin that has classed it under the unicorn banner. I love the idea of unicorns and all things mythological. I will have a look at your hub.

      Thank you for reading :)

    • profile image

      Rayne123 4 years ago

      Hi Anna

      What an interesting hub, very informative.

      I have never heard of that animal, however if it is part of the unicorn family, I believe they existed and well come back in a newer world to heal.

      I wrote a poem on unicorns and used the poem to incorporate facts about them.

      Thank you again


    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Hi kidscrafts thankyou for reading and commenting. I remember the dodo as clearly as if it was yesterday!

      It must have been pretty stunnning in Africa when you were younger, with the wildlife there. No wonder in instilled a lifelong love of nature in you!

      I really hope they can help it too :)

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Very interesting hub about the Saola, Anna! I never heard of that animal before!

      I like that in your article you start by explaining how you became sensitive to the notion of endangered species in a very young age. Often adults don't realize that some of what we experience as kids can have a lasting impression for the rest of our life.

      I lived in Africa as a kid and I think that's what made me not want to stay in Belgium (I was also 8 years old when I took that decision). And I love animals, probably because I discovered so many in Africa and then later other kinds in Belgium. I love nature as well. And I love discover new places.

      Thanks for sharing the informations about this beautiful creature! I hope that they can protect it better!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Thankyou very much khmazz for taking the time to read my hub and for your kind comment :)

    • khmazz profile image

      Kristen Mazzola 4 years ago from South Florida

      Great inforamtion on an animal that I had no idea existed. I can really see how my thouch and research went into this Hub! Wonderfully written, voted up!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Hi, thankyou very much taking the time to read and comment. It is a really interesting animal. Hope you have a good weekend too :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm not sure how I missed this one, Anna, but I'm here now.

      I did not hear about this discovery and I have never heard of this animal. Fascinating and thank you for the great information. Very interesting hub.

      Have a great weekend!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Valleypoet, thankyou for taking the time to read and for commenting. Yes, hopefully at some point they will know enough about the Saola to substain it's survival in captivity.

    • profile image

      Valleypoet 4 years ago

      A very interesting and educational hub....very concerning for this creature, in that it cannot be kept in captivity, as this may sadly be the only hope for many more species in the future...thanks for sharing this:-))

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Thankyou for taking the time to read and comment KrisL. Hopefully there is still time for the Saola to be conserved.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Thankyou Audrey. It really is a unique creature and so rare.

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

      Thanks for this, I had heard the name, but I did not know the details about this beautiful animal . . . I hope that this hub inspires people to support organizations that have some chance of saving it.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      So very interesting. I had not hear of these before!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Thankyou Eddy for reading and commenting :)

      I just think losing a creature forever is tragic, even more so if it is preventable.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      This one is so very interesting and well informed.

      It is tragic when animals face extinction and thank goodness for caring people such as yourself speak out on their behalf.

      Voted up,


    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Hi, I never forgot the Dodo, it was just one of those big times in your life when realisation dawns.

      I am not an really a watcher of nature programmes and I don't really know a great deal about many animals. However, I was really interested when I heard about the Saola. At first the media's name for it 'Asian Unicorn,' caught my eye as I love unicorns and I always have done. Then when I found that it was so mysterious, so recently discovered and yet so endangered I was really curious and also sad for it.

      Yes, apparently the few which have been caught have died shortly after being captured, which has led to the belief that they can't live in captivity.

      Thankyou DJ for reading and your positive comment, I do appreciate it a lot :)

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 4 years ago

      I watch many documentaries as well as animal channels on TV. With the current protection laws, hopefully extinction will not be in the Saola's future.

      You did a remarkable job giving information about extinction of animals and how that left an impact on you, as a young girl.

      You story is well written with history, habitat, and location.

      I did not remember that the Saolas did not survive in captivity.

      Overall, this is a well constructed hub.

      Great job, Anna!


    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Thankyou for taking the time to read and comment Anndango.

      I know, it is such a huge thing. I really did cry when I saw the Dodo and I never ever forgot it. Hopefully they can save the Saola though.

    • profile image

      anndango 4 years ago

      That was so very interesting, Anna. I find it so sad when animals go extinct or are close to it. Once they're gone, they're gone for good.