For the first time in 15 years a Saola, one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on Earth was caught on camera in Vietnam.
The Saola is also known as the Asian Unicorn because it is so rarely seen. It is closely related to wild cattle, but resembles an antelope. The Saola has white markings on the face and two parallel horns with sharp ends that can reach up to 4 feet or 50 inches in length.
It was photographed in September by a camera set up by WWF and the Vietnamese government’s Forest Protection Department in the Central Annamite mountains.
“These are the most important wild animal photographs taken in Asia, and perhaps the world, in at least the past decade,” said William Robichaud, coordinator of the Saola Working Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission, in a World Wildlife Fund press release.
The last confirmed record of a saola in the wild was in 1999 from camera-trap photos taken in the Laos province of Bolikhamxay. In 2010, villagers in Bolikhamxay captured a saola. The animal subsequently died.
“This is an historic moment in Vietnam’s efforts to protect our extraordinary biodiversity,” Dang Dinh Nguyen, deputy head of the country’s Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, said in the release.
“In Vietnam, the last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998,” Dang Dinh Nguyen, deputy head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department and director of Quang Nam’s Saola Nature Reserve, said in the statement.
“When our team first looked at the photos we couldn’t believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for South-east Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement,” Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF-Vietnam’s country director, said in a statement. “This is a breath-taking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species.”
“Saola are caught in wire snares set by hunters to catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are largely destined for the lucrative illegal wildlife trade,” Van Ngoc said. “Since 2011, forest guard patrols in the CarBi area have removed more than 30,000 snares from this critical saola habitat and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters’ camps.”
“Confirmation of the presence of the saola in this area is a testament to the dedicated and tireless efforts of these forest guards,” Van Ngoc said in a statement.
Scientists estimate that no more than a few hundred or a even as a few dozen saola existing in the wild, but they have not been able to come up with a population estimate. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Photo Credit: © WWF-Vietnam
Rare Saola Spotted First Time in a Decade
One of the rarest and most threatened mammals on earth has been caught on camera in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years, renewing hope for the recovery of the species, Asian Unicorn.