In search of the saola

Posted on 30 August 2013

Two decades after the sensational discovery of a new ungulate species called the saola, this rare animal remains as mysterious and elusive as ever.

The Saola’s Battle for Survival on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

With the opening of new roads in and between Vietnam and Laos, opportunistic hunters and loggers are moving into treacherous terrain where leeches, horse flies and deadly diseases used to keep outsiders at bay.  Forest guards in the rugged Annamite Mountains straddling these two countries are battling against time, racing to remove deadly traps and rescuing endangered animals before they are killed or tracked down by highly trained dogs.

The guards are patrolling nature reserves and protected areas along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, destroying thousands of snares and shutting down scores of illegal hunting camps in an all-out bid to save the rare eight million year old saola from extinction. Each time a trap is eliminated, the saola’s chances for survival increases. Efforts in Vietnam and Laos, the only countries where tiny saola populations struggle for survival, were stepped up dramatically in 2012, during the 20th anniversary year of its discovery by scientists in 1992.

Find out more about the elusive saola, and the struggle to ensure its survival.

REPORTThe Saola’s Battle for Survival on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. DOWNLOAD HERE

FEATURE:  Vietnam’s invincible biologist, Do Tuoc, the Vietnamese scientist who discovered the saola with John Mackinnon in 1992. READ MORE

TRIP DIARY:  Read Dr Elizabeth Kemf's diary of her recent visit to Vietnam and Laos, as she explores what has happened in the 20 years sience the discovery of the saola and efforts to ensure its protection. Dr Kemf is author of Month of Pure Light: the regreening of Vietnam, and is writing a book on the rise and fall of Indochina’s Elephant Kings.
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Saola or Vu quang ox (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis); Hanoi, Vietnam.
© David HULSE / WWF
Nguyen Xuan Hieu, traditional healer, shows his saola trophy from 1998 to Elizabeth Kemf on the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the species to science in 1992.
© WWF / Ngan Nguyen Thi Phuong