Endangered Animal Species: Part-6, Saola

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Endangered Animal Species: Part-6, Saola

The saola is one of the rarest mammals in the world. Ai deals with a bovid that lives in a very restricted region between the Vu Qang Nature Reserve and Laos, near the border with Vietnam. The scientific name nghetinhensis refers to the two Vietnamese provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh, while Pseudoryx alludes to the similarity with the oryx.

The Hmong natives call the saola saht-supahp, an expression that in the Lao language means the discreet animal, referring to the way in which the saola moves in the forest. The animal is mainly known to researchers through images taken with photographic traps placed in the jungle.

The saola became known to the scientific community only in May 1992, following the discovery in a village in the Annamite mountains in Vietnam of some pairs of horns belonging to an animal unknown at that time. Saola are shot for their meat, but hunters also gain high esteem in the village for the production of a carcass.

Due to the scarcity, the locals place much more value on the saola than more common species. Because the people in this area are traditional hunters, their attitude about killing the saola is hard to change; this makes conservation difficult.

The intense interest from the scientific community has actually motivated hunters to capture live specimens.

Endangered Animal Species: Part-6, Saola

The chromosomal analysis allowed to establish that the saola belongs to a new genus of ruminants, related to the cow, the kudu, the eland and the ana, and located in the subfamily Bovinae.

The saola is found only in a small area between Laos and Vietnam, in the Vu Qang reserve. The saola stands about 85 cm high at the withers and weighs 90 kg. The coat is dark brown, with a white stripe running along the back.

The legs are dark in color with white spots near the hooves. Other vertical white stripes are found on the cheeks, above the eyes, on the nose and on the chin. Each specimen has a pair of horns, slightly curved back, which reach half a meter in length.

According to local populations, the saola move in small groups of 2-3 specimens. The species is threatened by the degradation of the forests in the region and by the hunting practiced by local populations, who greatly appreciate saola meat.

Deforestation and wild hunting have reduced the population of this very rare animal to the bone, and its inability to live in captivity makes its protection difficult.