Saola – Asia’s Unicorn (?)

SaolaConservation status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
Common name: saola, siola, Vu Quang ox, spindlehorn, Asian unicorn, Vu Quang bovid
Scientific name: Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
Type: mammal
Diet: plants (preference for the Sterculiaceae species)
Length: 150 cm (height 84 cm)
Weight: n/a

Saola was discovered in 1992 when a survey team found its remain in Vu Quang nature reserve in Vietnam.  It was only in 1999, when a living saola was first photographed by WWF and the Vietnamese government’s Forest Protection Department (SFNC) in the wild. Its nickname “Asian Unicorn” is rather a misnomer because this forest-dwelling bovine has two horns!  Such appellation seems to have derived from its rarity and no one really knows its link to the mythical creature.

There is no data on how many saolas exist, but it is one of the rarest large mammals. Efforts to conserve saola include halting commercial logging near Bu Huong nature reserve (area considered its habitat) and banning hunting.  However, traditional hunters in the area still prize the capture of saola for its scarcity, so changing their attitude is rather hard. Scientists are trying to figure out other effective ways to conserve this species, but lack of data is posing a huge challenge as even spotting saola in the wild is proving to be a challenge.





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