The Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), also known as the spindlehorn, Asian unicorn, or, less often, the Vu Quang bovid, is one of the rarest large animals in the world. It is a forest-dwelling bovine that is native to the Annamite Range in Vietnam and Laos. In 1993, it was given a name when bones were found in V Quang National Park by a survey done by the Vietnamese Ministry of Forestry and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Since then, Saolas have been kept in captivity more than once, but only for short times because they died within a few weeks or months. Do Tuoc, a forest ecologist, and his colleagues were the first to report the species in 1992. In 1993, the first picture of a living saola was taken in a zoo. The most recent one was taken by a camera that was set off by movement in a forest in the middle of Vietnam in 2013.
Distribution And Habitat
The range of the Saola is one of the smallest of any big animal. It lives in the river valleys of wet evergreen or deciduous forests in eastern Southeast Asia. People have seen them in steep river valleys that are 980 to 5,910 feet above sea level.
The species’ range seems to cover about 5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi) in Vietnam and Laos, where there are four nature reserves. It moves down to the lowlands for the winter. It was mostly seen near streams between 592 and 1112 meters (1,942 and 3,648 feet) above sea level in the northern Annamite Mountains.
Habits and Lifestyle
Saola is active both during the day and at night, but they like to sleep during the hottest part of the day. They usually live alone, but they can get together with as few as two or three individuals or as many as six or seven.
Saola is territorial and marks their territory by opening the flap of their maxillary gland and leaving a smelly secretion on rocks and plants. When they aren’t looking for food, Saola spends a lot of time grooming themselves, resting, and sometimes making short bleats.
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Diet: What Do Saolas Eat?
In an experiment, the experts gave the animal spleenwort (Asplenium), Homalomena, and different types of shrubs or trees with broad leaves from the family Sterculiaceae. The Saola ate all kinds of plants, but they seemed to like the species in the Sterculiaceae family the most.
The female saola didn’t pull at leaves. Instead, she used her long tongue to chew them or pull them into her mouth. She ate most of her food during the day and rarely at night. Like other herbivores in its range, the Saola is thought to eat Schismatoglottis.
We don’t know much about how saola animal reproduce. They have a set time to mate, from the end of August to the middle of November. Females only have one calf. Most calves are born in the summer, between mid-April and late June. It is thought that pregnancy lasts about 33 weeks.
Loss of habitat & fragmentation of existing habitat is the greatest challenges facing Saola today. Local hunting and the illegal trafficking of furs, traditional medicines, and meat for use in restaurants and food markets are also a problem for them. Wild boar, sambar, and muntjac are just some of the crop-raiding species that can get snared alongside saola animal.
So far, conservation organizations have cleared more than 26,651 snares from saola habitats. People in the area place a considerably higher value on Saola than they would on a more common animal because of its relative rarity. Traditional hunting culture among the local population makes it challenging to influence people’s minds about the poaching of Saola and promote its conservation.
How Many Saola Are Left In The World?
So, why is the soala endangered? It’s because of the anthropogenic pressure around the globe. As per the IUCN Red List, there is less than 750 saola left in the world. On the Red List, this species is listed as Critically Endangered (CR), which means its numbers are decreasing.
- The name “saola” means “spindle-horned” in English, but it really means “spinning-wheel post horn.” The name comes from a language that people speak in Vietnam called Tai.
- Hmong people in Laos call saola saht-supahp. This word comes from Lao and means “the polite animal.” Saola moves quietly through the forest, so this name fits them well.
- Local people in the area where the Saola lives also call it lagiang (Van Kieu), a ngao (Ta Oi), and xoong xor (Katu).
- Cattle, goats, and antelopes are all related to the Saola.
- The Saola was first talked about in 1992. Since then, they have been kept in captivity more than once, but only for short periods of time.
- In 1999, WWF and the Forest Protection Department of the Vietnamese government set up a camera trap that caught the first picture of a living saola in the wild (SFNC).
- In the news, Saola has been called “Asian unicorns.” This may be because they are rare & said to be kind or because the Saola and the oryx have both been linked to the unicorn.
Is The Saola The Rarest Animal In The World?
The Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is one of the rarest large animals on the planet. It is the only species of a type of bovid, and scientists have only known about it since 1992.
Why Is The Saola Rare?
Less than 30 years later, the saola population is thought to have dropped by a huge amount due to commercial wildlife poaching, which has exploded in Vietnam since 1994.
Why Is The Saola Important?
We don’t know much about how Saola fits into the ecosystem. Since there aren’t many Saola, they probably don’t have a big effect on the plants around them. Even though they could be food for carnivorous mammals, Saola is so rare that it’s unlikely they play a big role in the local food web.
What Are Saola Predators?
People, tigers, and crocodiles are among the animals that eat Saolas.
Parvaiz Yousuf is a senior SEO writer and editor with an experience of over 6 years, who also doubles up as a researcher. With an MSc zoology degree under his belt and possessing complete Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge, he works as a science journalist for a US-based website and Asian Scientist (A Singapore-based magazine). He also works as Director of Wetland Research Centre, Wildlife Conservation Fund YPJK since 2018. Besides, he has several publications to his name on cancer biology and biochemistry in some reputed journals such as Nature & International Journal of Molecular Sciences, & magazines such as Science Reporter, BUCEROS BNHS, and has an abiding interest in ornithology. He also worked as a Research Associate for JK Policy Institute.