Posted on 01 September 2005
In the early 1990s, the Greater Annamites ecoregion leapt from relative obscurity onto the pages of the world’s press with the surprise discovery of the saola.
The discovery of the long-horned bovid was a globally significant event in the history of science, as during the last 100 years only five new species of large mammals were discovered around the world before the saola.
The saola was first identified by its horns during a joint survey by the Vietnamese Ministry of Forestry and WWF in Vu Quang Nature Reserve in central Vietnam in 1992.
Reports and surveys have since confirmed the saola’s presence in four provinces in Lao PDR and in six provinces in Vietnam.
The saola has its own genus within the family Bovidae. It is believed that the saola is a relic species that, along with its habitat, was squeezed into its present small range by climatic changes during and following the last Ice Age.
While photo traps have recorded the animal, it remains elusive - no scientist has seen a living saola in the wild. As a result population estimates vary widely, from between 70-700 individuals.