by, Jo Carol Hebert
What is a Saola and why should we care about it?
Because this beautiful antelope-looking animal: is “critically endangered” – most likely to become extinct. The Saola’s numbers are less than two hundred alive in the wild today. It is also the most recently discovered large mammal in the world.
In May, 1992, an animal skull with two long, straight horns was found by biologists surveying the Quang Vu Nature Reserve in Southeast Asia. These scientists were excited about the discovery.
Here was a Saola, a new species of mammal in the family of wild cattle. Other members of the wild cattle family include sheep, goats, buffalos, and cows.
The Saola (pronounced ‘sow-la’) is a shy and gentle creature. It moves like a mystery through a small area of dense evergreen forests deep in the Annamite mountains of the countries of Viet Nam and Laos. The local villagers call the Saola, ‘the polite animal’.
Did You Know?
- The Saola is also called the Asian Unicorn.
- Sometimes the Saola is called a spindle-horn. This is because its horns look like the spinning wheels of the villagers vehicles.
- Sometimes the Saola is called the Quang Vu ox. They live only in the Quang Vu Nature Reserve.
- In 1999, the first Saola found alive in the wild was photographed by a camera hidden in the forest.
Quick Saola Facts
Lifespan: 8-12 years.
Weight: 175-220 pounds (79.4 to 100 kg).
Diet: Herbivores (plants, leaves, grass, seeds, and fruit).
The fur of the Saola is very soft and thin in shades of chestnut brown. Their horns can grow to 20 inches (50.8 cm), and they make short “bleating” sounds.
A Critically Endangered Species
Several Saolas have been captured by regional and world wildlife scientists for study. They did not live long. Factors that contribute to the extinction of the Saola are:
- Poachers who kill wildlife to sell their horns, hides, and food.
- Local agriculture that is increasing into the habitat of the Saola.
- Crocodiles that prey upon these riverside-dwelling mammals.
Saving the Saola and Their Environment
If you would like to learn more about the Saola, check out Saola Working Group, and World Wildlife Fund.
Categories: Horns & Antlers
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