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All Creatures,

Episode 51: The Asian Unicorn, the Saola

August 14, 2018

The Saola was the largest mammal discovered in the last 50 years. It has been called one of the greatest zoological findings in the 20th Century. In 1992, this antelope-like animal was discovered by the western world when a survey commissioned by Vietnam and the WWF found the skull of a Saola from a local hunter.

Saola Description

Not much is known about the Saola since its discovery and due to its elusive nature. However, due to work of scientists we now know the Saola is more closely related to bovids than any other class of animals. Further genetic work has identified buffalo and cattle as their closest relatives. However, the Saola is considered a more ancient relative of these animals. The scientific name of the Saola is Pseudoryx nghetinhensis.

Saola Facts

Saola live in the highlands of the Annamite mountains between Vietnam and Laos of southeast Asia. So far through camera traps, scientists estimate the Saola prefer the midrange and the river valleys of this highly rugged and deep forested mountain range.

Other facts include:

  • Herbivores and a browser
  • Considered solitary though reports of 2-3 animals have been seen grouped together
  • Can possibly live up to 20 years old, but not known
  • Called the ‘Asian Unicorn’ due to a single horn appearance looking at its profile
  • Estimated to be 33 inches at shoulder (83cm)
  • Weigh 175 to 220 lbs (80 -100 kg)

Saola Conservation

This species is considered critically endangered. Their population can be as low as 25 or up to 750 animals in the wild. Camera traps have only briefly caught glimpses of these animals over the years. The number one threat is not direct poaching, but those of snares set up by poachers in hoping to catch other wild game. The demand for exotic meat has increased substantially in Vietnam and unfortunately the Saola can get caught in a snare and killed for its meat, or die trapped.

Organizations to Support

Saola Working Group (Please like and follow them on Facebook as well)

Global Wildlife Conservation

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