A nature reserve in Vietnam is working to protect one of the rarest species on Earth: the saola, also known as the Asian unicorn.
The saola were discovered back in 1992 and were the first large mammal to be discovered since the early 1930s, according to the University of Leeds.
Photo: YouTube/World Wildlife Fund[/caption]
One thing we do know is that they’re a critically endangered species, according to the IUCN, and one of the most elusive species. It’s believed there’s only around 750 of them left in the wild.
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Recently, it’s possible that a saola was spotted in the newly formed Dong Chau-Khe Nuoc Trong Nature Reserve in Vietnam. The area boasts the last meaningful lowland forests in all of Vietnam, which could play a role in the saola’s presence (and critically endangered status).
Saola look similar to antelope, but they also share characteristics of bison and cows. The World Wildlife Fund reported that both male and female saolas have two straight horns that can grow up to 20 inches.
The Vietnamese government granted protection to the 22,132-hectare area where the saola was possibly spotted, giving it the title of Nature Reserve. Mongbay reported that the Nature Reserve status is the most serious level of protection in Vietnam, and the hope is that the added protection will help the saola to survive and increase their numbers.
Beyond just helping the elusive and rare saola, the Nature Reserve will also protect 40 other globally threatened species, such as the Annamite striped rabbit, the muntjac deer, and the southern white-cheeked gibbon.
In an interview with the University of Leeds, the Viet Nature Conservation Centre co-founder, Pham Tuan Ang, said, “The new status puts biodiversity protection as a key objective – the level that its outstanding biodiversity deserves. It is an inspiring achievement after more than a decade of hard work. We will now be able to access [a] higher level]of funds for conservation from local as well as national governments.”
There hasn’t been an official saola sighting since 2013, but it’s hopeful that with the new conservation efforts and the Nature Reserve, they’ll be able to grow in numbers and researchers can find one once again.Whizzco