Friday, November 15, 2013
One of the rarest and most threatened mammals on earth has been caught on camera in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years, renewing hope for the recovery of the species, an international conservation group said on Wednesday.
The saola, a long-horned ox, was photographed in a forest in central Vietnam in September, WWF said.
"This is a breathtaking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species," Van Ngoc Thinh, the group's Vietnam country director said.
The animal was first discovered in the remote areas of high mountains near the border with Laos in 1992 when a joint team from WWF and Vietnam's forest control agency found a skull with unusual horns in a hunter's home. The find proved to be the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years.
In Vietnam, the last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998, according to Dang Dinh Nguyen, director of the Saola natural reserve in the central province of Quang Nam.
The WWF has recruited forest guards from local communities to remove snares and battle illegal hunting in the area where the saola was photographed. It said poaching was the greatest threat to saola's survival. The snares are set to largely catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are a delicacy in Vietnam.
Twenty years after its discovery, little is known about saola and the difficulty in detecting the elusive animal has prevented scientists from making a precise population estimate.
At best, no more than a few hundred, and maybe only a few dozen, survive in the remote, dense forests along the border with Laos, according to WWF.
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Rare saola caught by villagers and shown to conservationists was thought to be one of only a few hundred left in the wild
Posted by Wade G. Burck