THE ISSUES: Why is Saola Endangered?
Multiple issues have converged to make the Saola one of the world’s most endangered mammals, but all of them are solvable.
Effects of small population size
Saola is now distributed in several isolated, small subpopulations.
These subpopulations are now probably small enough to be threatened further by other affects, such as genetic inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity, skewed sex ratios, and difficulty of isolated males and females to find each other for mating. The results of an preliminary Population Viability Analysis, conducted by the Saola Working Group at its meeting in November, 2015, indicate that even if immediate cessation of all hunting threats could be achieved, it is likely that all Saola subpopulations would drift to extinction in the next 10 to 15 years.
Insufficient conservation attention and resources
Saola is also indirectly threatened by insufficient attention to and investment in its conservation, both by the governments of Lao PDR and Vietnam, and the international conservation and donor community.
This lack of attention is a limitation that the SWG in particular has worked, with considerable success, to change. The situation is now better. Still, the fact that remains that Saola conservation has not yet been attempted in a comprehensive manner. This beautiful animal risks going quietly extinct from insufficient attention.