Under 250 are estimated to remain
Up to 85 centimetres tall, and 1.5 metres long
The Saola is one of the rarest animals on the planet. It is rarely seen and estimated to be under 250 individuals remaining. The last known population estimate was performed way back in 2005. The animal is rarely studied making population surveys non-existent.
The Saola is distributed through eastern Indochina, in areas of Vietnam and Laos. They are found in four nature reserves in these countries and have a range of around 5000 square kilometres, along the Annamite Mountain Range. Their distribution is rather patchy however.
The Saola has a chocolate brown coat which contains patches of white on their face, throat and sides of the neck. A paler brown is on their neck and stomach and a black dorsal stripe is also seen on the animal which runs parallel with the animals horns. The coat is also rather thick and wooly aiding the animal in living in mountainous habitat. The Saola possess brown eyes, with large round pupils, to go with whiskers on the end of their chin.
The Saola has divergent horns which are almost identical, but are often different sizes which are dark brown to a black in colour and range from 35 – 50 centimetres in length, twice the size of the animals head.
The Saola has not been widely studied. The following is behaviour which is suspected or what is known for the species.
- Active in both day and the night, with a preference for resting during the hottest parts of the day
- Are believed to be mostly solitary, but can be found in groups of two or three
- Groom themselves frequently
- Saola’s mark their territory
The known diet of the Saola consists of:
- Various species of ferns
- Generally dark green plants
- Broad leaved shrubs from the Sterculiaceae family
Feeding for the species is only done during the day.
Not much is known about the Saola’s diet however so information is incomplete.
The main habitat of the Saola is wet evergreen or deciduous forests throughout eastern Indochina. They are mostly found near rivers and in valleys often in really steep between 300 – 1800 metres above sea level.
The main threats which face the Saola are:
- Restrictive habitat requirements
- Aversion to human proximity – this is one of the major keys for Saola populations as they like remoteness from human disturbance.
- Habitat loss
- Habitat fragmentation
- Trophy Hunting
- Illegal trade – trophies, meat and fur. Hunters are held in high regards in villages when producing a carcass. Being traditional people, attitudes are very hard to change.
- Bycatch of snares targeting wild boars, sambars and muntjacs. Conservation groups have removed more than 26,600 snares from their habitat!
Saola Working Group
The Saola Working Group was formed by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group in 2006 with the aim of protecting the Saolas and their habitat
Not a lot is really happening in terms of conservation for the Saola due to the belief that the population is too fragmented as well as too scarce to successfully study.