On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, WWF announced that in September, a saola was photographed in the wild in central Vietnam. The saola is one the world’s most endangered large mammals, and was last photographed in the wild in 1999, in neighboring Laos.
“These are the most important wild animal photographs taken in Asia, and perhaps the world, in more than a decade”, said William Robichaud, Coordinator of the Saola Working Group. “The pictures lift us with hope”.
Three photographs of the same adult saola (sex unknown) were taken by an automatic camera trap set in a protected area, under a project by the Vietnamese government’s Forest Protection Department and WWF. It shows an animal in early evening, moving along a rocky streambed in the forest. The long horns of an adult saola are clearly visible.
The site of the photograph is a priority saola area, where “forest guards”, drawn from local communities and supervised by WWF, have been conducting intensive removals of illegal snares.
“This is evidence that the forest guards model can work”, said Robichaud. “We now need additional funds to scale it up to other sites in the saola’s range, while saola still has time”.
The previous and only time the species was photographed in Vietnam was in 1998, in a different area. In 2010, a saola was captured by villagers in Laos, but died in their care a few days later. In fact, the saola has been called the “Asian unicorn”, because it is so difficult to find in its dense forest habitat in remote areas along the Laos/Vietnam border.
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