25

Saola

East Asia

25

Pseudoryx nghetinhensis

Endangered

The main threats to the existence of the Saola are:

  • commercial poaching
  • illegal wildlife trade
  • caught in snares that have been set to catch crop-raiding animals

Saola (pronounced sow-la), one of the world’s rarest large mammals, can only be found in the Annamite Mountain Range of Vietnam and Laos.

Before May 1992, nothing is known about this forest-dwelling creature. The collaboration between Vietnam’s Ministry of Forestry and World Wildlife Fund resulted to its introduction to the Western world.

Also known as the Asian Unicorn, its Vietnamese name means ‘spindle horns’ as its horns resemble spinning wheel posts in local villages. It has a striking white-marked face, long tongue (extending out up to 16 inches), as well as unusually large maxillary glands used to attract mates and mark territories.

Though the Saola has antelope-like features, its DNA classification is more closely related to the cow species. This ‘false antelope’ is the only member of the Pseudoryx genus. These mild-mannered bovines prefer to live in solitude; the remote location where it lives makes it difficult to determine its exact remaining number. It is believed, however, that there are less than one hundred individuals left in protected areas.

Conservation attempts in the past prove to be unsuccessful as those Saolas brought to Vietnam reserves eventually die. Scientists suspect that they do not thrive well in captivity. Survival of its kind is at risk mainly because of the prevalence of wire cable snares set out by professional poachers. They hunt Saolas down for several reasons: its meat is considered a local delicacy; its fur is in demand in the black market; and, its body parts are used for traditional Asian medicine.