Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Saola: Rarest of Large Mammals Encountered

The saola, or Vu Quang ox, is one of the rarest of large mammals. It was described in 1992, the most spectacular of several finds from the Vu Quang region along the border of Vietnam and Laos. At 100kg, it was the largest full species of land mammal confirmed since the kouprey in 1936. The species is so rare, in fact, that it was last spotted by a trailcam in 1999. So it was a big deal when villagers in Laos captured a live adult. Scientists zoomed to the remote area as quickly as the could, but the animal lived only days.
One of the leading experts on the species, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, said much good science would still come from studying the freshly dead specimen. He said, "Our lack of knowledge of saola biology is a major constraint to efforts to conserve it," noting that, "At best a few hundred survive, but it may be only a few dozen. The situation is critical."

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