Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - the Saola

I had two other ideas for my post today, but then this adorable little creature came back into my head and said, “pick me, pick me.”

Over the weekend I was looking up something totally unrelated, when I discovered the saola on the World Wildlife Fund’s website. Only first discovered in 1992, the elusive saola lives in the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam. None have survived in captivity for long and no one is sure what their numbers in the wild are. Estimates range from a few hundred to less than twenty. Scientists have only positively identified the saola in the wild four times.

The word saola (pronounced: sow-la) means “spindle horns” in Vietnamese. The animal is named such because of its two parallel horns which can reach 20 inches in length and are found on both males and females. Their coloring is chocolate brown to deep red with distinctive white markings on its face. They can weigh between 175 to 220 pounds and average 32 to 35 inches tall.  

Often called the Asian unicorn, they are most closely related to the cows, though they look more like they should be in the deer or antelope families. I don’t remember that much from high school biology, but I do remember trying to memorize certain class-order-family-genus-species of certain animals and that there was a reason each animal went in each group. 

But back to my beautiful little saola. They are so critically endangered because they only live in a very limited habitat, one which is shrinking from deforestation and development. Many are caught and killed in snares which are set up by the local people to catch other species. It has been through the locals, however, that the most information about the saola has been gleaned.
(Pictures from the WWF website. Please click here to learn more about this critically endangered animal.)

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