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.
Saola’s remarkable discovery
In 1992, a joint team of Vietnamese government and WWF biologists conducted a general wildlife and biodiversity survey of Vu Quang Nature Reserve (now a national park), on Vietnam’s border with central Laos. In the course of the survey, a member of the team encountered a pair of unusual horns in the house of a local hunter – unlike the horns of any animal then known from Southeast Asia. The team eventually found and examined more sets of horns (some clearly from recent kills), and the full skin one of the animals, and realized they belonged to a previously unknown (to science) and highly distinctive species of large mammal. In 1993, the team announced their extraordinary discovery in the journal Nature, in an article entitled “A new species of living bovid from Vietnam”. Shortly afterwards, Saola’s occurrence in Laos was confirmed. It was perhaps the most surprising zoological find of the 20thcentury.