In Southeast Asia, most endangered species of wildlife are threatened by targeted offtake for the wildlife trade, either for bushmeat or traditional Asian medicine. Most hunting occurs through the setting of wire snares. These snares are indiscriminate, so they catch any animal unfortunate enough to be trapped – including saola.
The magnitude of the problem is staggering: in one protected area in central Vietnam, forest rangers have removed more than 130,000 snares in the past few years.
Yet still, thousands more remain. The SWG and its partners have focused on improving protection in key areas. Despite significant improvements in protected area management, no area in Lao PDR or Vietnam is sufficiently well protected to save remaining saola.
As a result of rampant snaring, saola are now distributed in a handful of small, isolated subpopulations. Numbers are so low that the species now faces numerous effects associated with extremely small populations. These include genetic inbreeding and loss of heterozygosity, skewed sex ratios, and difficulty of isolated males and females to find each other for mating. How do the effects of small population biology impact saola conservation? It is likely 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.