Saola are one of the rarest large animals on Earth. They are so rare, in fact, that it is next to impossible to observe them in the wild. Scientists set remote cameras, triggered by movement, in order to be able to capture this rarity in a photograph, and managed to do so only four times since its discovery.
They are one of the world’s rarest mammals.
Their current population is estimated at below 750 individuals.
Saola are native to Annamite Mountains on the border of Vietnam and Laos.
They resemble antelopes, but scientists place them as a member of the tribe Bovini.
They are the only member of the genus Pseudoryx.
It is thanks to significant differences in behavior and appearance from other known species of the family Bovidae.
Saola were first discovered in 1992 by Vietnamese biologist, Do Tuoc.
The discovery was officially announced by WWF on July 17th, 1992. It was not a living animal, however, that was discovered, but a horned skull. Since its traits differed significantly from any other known wild cattle species in Asia, it was assumed a new species.
They reach 150 to 200 centimeters in length and weigh approximately 90 kg.
They are distinguished by two, 50 centimeters long, sharp-edged parallel horns.
Horns are present in both males and females.
Saola have dark, chocolate brown fur, with distinguished white markings along their jaws, on their neck, and above their eyes.
Their tails are short, brown-beige-black.
The average lifespan is believed to be 9 to 11 years in the wild.
They do not do well in captivity. In fact, every individual ever kept in captivity died of an unknown cause after a short period of time.
Saola are both diurnal and nocturnal.
However, they are believed to prefer to rest during the day. Their primary activity occurs during twilight.
Saola are mainly solitary.
They can, however, form herds of up to 7 individuals.
Saola males are highly territorial.
They mark their territory with a highly scented substance produced in the maxillary gland.
They are herbivores.
They feed on fig leaves, fruit, berries, and seeds.
They fell prey to tigers and crocodiles.
The mating season lasts from April to June in Laos, and from February to March in Vietnam.
Saola give birth to one calf after 8 or 9 months of gestation.
Information about their reproductive behavior is scarce, however, since they can be hardly observed in the wild, and are very timid animals.
In Vietnamese, Saola means “spindle horns.”
The first photograph of Saola was taken in 1999.
Since then, scientists have managed to photograph Saola only three more times, the last time in 2013.
They are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
They suffer from habitat loss and excessive illegal poaching, which has grown considerably in Vietnam since 1994.