The saola (Pseudoryx ngethinhensis) is one of the rarest large animals on earth. It is the sole species of a genus of bovids, and has been known to science only since 1992. Adults weigh 80-100 kg, and both females and males are characterized by long, gently curving horns, and a striking pattern of white markings on the head. Its genus name comes from its resemblance to the oryxes, – antelopes of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula – but the Saola’s closely living relatives are wild cattle and buffaloes.
The Saola occurs only in the Annamite Mountains, along the border of Vietnam and Laos. It has one of the smallest ranges of any large mammal. In Laos, there is evidence of occurrence in the eastern portions of Bolikhamxay, Khammouan, Savannakhet, Xekong and southern Xieng Khouang provinces. In Vietnam there is evidence of occurrence in Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua-Thien Hue and Quang Nam Provinces. It is suspected to occur in no more than 15 forest blocks in the two countries, and quite possibly fewer.
Multiple issues have converged to make the Saola one of the world’s most endangered mammals, but all of them are solvable.
The primary threat is by hunting, rather than habitat loss. The main hunting threat comes from commercial poaching, not subsistence hunting by local people.
Other threats include the effects of small population size and insufficient conservation attention and resources.
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