Vietnam creates reserve for newly-discovered endangered mammal

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The Vietnam government and local people have approved a Saola Natural Reserve to protect one of the world’s most endangered—and most elusive—mammals. 

Only discovered by the outside world in 1992, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) inhabits the lush forests of the Annamite Mountains. 

No one knows how many saola remain, but it has been classified as Critically Endangered as it is likely very few. 

Recently, conservationist William Robichaud told mongabay.com that the saola was “perhaps the most spectacular zoological discovery of the 20th century”, comparing it only to the discovery of the okapi in central Africa in 1900. 

The new reserve in Quang Nam Province rests on the border of Vietnam and Laos. 

“This new reserve will create a biodiversity corridor connecting the East of Vietnam to West side of Xe Sap National Park in Laos,” explained Ms. Tran Minh Hien, Country Director of WWF Vietnam, in a statement. 

There are no specimens of saola in zoos, making reintroduction impossible should the species go extinct in the wild. 

Over a dozen individual saolas have been held in captivity, but all died within a few months time. 

While the saola looks like an Africa antelope, it is actually more closely related to wild cattle, though it is evolutionary unique enough to have its own genus. 

The saola’s range extends along the Annamite Mountains in both Vietnam and Laos. 

The animal is threatened by snares set by poachers, dog-hunting, and loss of habitat largely exacerbated by road construction.  

Author: Jeremy Hance | Source: Mongabay News [April 14, 2011]

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