Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Clade: Synapsida
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Subfamily: Bovinae
  • Genus: Pseudoryx
  • Species: P. nghetinhensis

Native to the Annamite Mountains in Vietnam and Laos, the Saola are one of the world’s rarest large mammals today. The species was stumbled upon a short time ago, only in 1992, by the Ministry of Forestry of Vietnam and WWF in north-central Vietnam. With a similar build to that of cows and buffaloes reaching up to 220lbs as adults, the Saola have bold and striking white colouration and are characterised by their impressive horns, which are surprisingly found on both sexes. The Saola’s horns are parallel to one another and can reach up to 20 inches in length, the animal’s name literally translates to spindle wheel in Vietnamese.

Saola are quite solitary creatures, often roaming their picturesque environment alone or in small groups. As herbivorous animals, their diets are primarily made up of broad-leafed vegetation, which they pick at with their long, powerful tongues. Saola naturally inhabit areas which are densely forested, however increasing deforestation in the area is having a severe impact on the Saola’s habitat. Such deforestation, forces the Saola into smaller areas, increasing stress for the free-roaming animal and as a result impacting the reproduction of the animal.

As well as loss of forest for the animal, the Saola are often accidentally caught up in traps intended for wild boars in the area. Conservation efforts are made difficult by indigenous hunters, who take pride in killing and eating the rare Saola. Sightings of the animal are so rare that their exact population is currently unknown, however, it is thought to be no more than a few hundred.

Most efforts to preserve the Saola population focus on removing the traps laid in the forest intended for other animals and campaigning against conversion of forest into farmland. Conservation teams are also currently in the process of establishing a protected area of forestland for the Saola, as well as strengthening law enforcement in the area against the hunting of the animal and deforestation.

Estimated Saola population figures between 2010 and 2016

The line graph above indicates the estimated Saola population figure over a period of 6 years. As the wild Saola population is incredibly difficult to study, the exact population figure today is unknown, but it is thought to be surely less than 600.

The graph above indicates that the Saola population is declining, from an approximated 650 individuals in 2010 to 450 today. These figures represent a loss of 40% of the population since 2010, which is due to habitat loss and continued hunting of the species.

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