Apr 15

There is renewed hope for the conservation of one of the world’s most Critically Endangered and elusive mammals, the saola (Psuedoryx nghetinhensis), following the establishment of a new protected reserve.

Photo of wild saola in habitat

Saola in the wild

New agreement, new hope

Yesterday, the Quang Nam’s People Committee agreed that the Forestry Protection Department could establish a new, dedicated Saola Natural Reserve in the Annamite Mountains, along the border of Vietnam and Laos, offering a glimmer of hope for conservationists working to protect this species.

Ms. Tran Minh Hien, Country Director of WWF Vietnam, says that “The establishment of this new Saola Nature Reserve shows a strong commitment by the Vietnamese Government and Quang Nam Province in the conservation of this highly threatened endemic species. This new reserve will create a biodiversity corridor connecting the East of Vietnam to West side of Xe Sap National Park in Laos.”

WWF Vietnam has been working with various agencies and authorities in Vietnam to promote the establishment of the Saola Nature Reserve in Quang Nam and the Saola Nature Reserve in Thua Thien Hue, as well as encouraging the extension of Bach Ma National Park.

Photo of saola in captivity

Saola in captivity

Ideal habitat

The Saola Natural Reserve in Quang Nam contains ideal habitat for saola, which will hopefully allow them to thrive in the region in future. It is also hoped that establishing the Nature Reserve will help to promote the conservation of the Annamite Mountains, a diverse region home to many other globally threatened species, such as Francois’s langur and the kha-nyou.

Photo of Francois's langur

Francois's langur

We believe that, with the guidance from the People’s Committee, related local Departments and the cooperation with WWF, the Management Board will carry out the Saola’s conservation well which will not only help improve the Saola’s survival but also have long term value in developing and maintaining the biodiversity of the area.” said Mr Dang Dinh Nguyen, Director of Quang Nam Provincial Forest Protection Department and the Acting Director of the Saola Nature Reserve.

A recent discovery

The saola was only discovered as recently as 1992 by a joint WWF and Vietnam Department of Forestry survey. Despite being relatively new to science, the future of this enigmatic species is severely threatened by illegal hunting for its horns and by the loss of its forest habitat.

WWF has worked closely with scientists, along with protected area staff, rangers and local communities, to try to understand the population status and ecological requirements of this vulnerable bovid since its discovery. Currently, it is thought that, at most, only a few hundred individuals may remain in the wild. No saola have been known to survive in captivity.

In attempts to lessen the numerous threats to the saola, teams of WWF Forest Guards and Forestry Protection Department rangers are patrolling the nature reserves on a daily basis, removing thousands of snares and destroying many illegal hunting camps, as part of a new cooperative enforcement programme.

Find out more about the saola on ARKive

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author