Posted on 08 November 2002
Vietnam's saola is one of the greatest animal discoveries in recent times — and the loss of one last month is a blow to the species' survival.
The death of one of Vietnam’s few-remaining saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
; also known as Vu Quang ox) was confirmed last month when police from Hien District in northern Quang Nam province uncovered fresh saola meat being consumed in A’ Tep village, Bhalle commune, in the far north of the province.
Only discovered by scientists in 1992, little is known about this straight-horned mammal, except that it is extremely unique and could be on the brink of extinction. Estimates have put the total population of saola at between 70-1000 individuals, restricted to an area of around 4,000 square kilometres in forests of the Truong Son mountains along the Vietnam-Laos border.
The area where the saola was caught is thought to be one of only a handful of remaining strongholds for the species, and the loss of even a single saola constitutes a significant blow to the potential survival of the population in the area, as well as to the species as a whole.
A survey team from WWF Indochina and the Quang Nam Forest Protection Department had recently visited a neighbouring commune to conduct biological research into the wildlife of the area. The team found that the area’s saola population already appeared to be in a more serious condition than was previously expected. Local people said that saola are extremely rare and are seldom encountered or snared in the forest these days. Indeed in one village, a steady decline in the rate of capture was evident in the display of skulls from past hunting trips.
However, the future is not totally bleak for the saola. Unlike many species, it does not hold particular medicinal values and as such is not as highly prized as other rare species such as tiger. “Hunters do not tend to target saola as it is simply not economically viable to do so, the main cause of depletion is thought to be by accidental capture in snares” said Mike Baltzer from the WWF Indochina Programme. As a result, conservationists hope that – with increased awareness and national pride about such a beautiful, unique and threatened animal – there could be a light at the end of the tunnel for the saola.
For further information:
WWF Indochina Programme Representative