“Asian Unicorn” Saola rediscovered

Published December 4, 2013
 Species spotlight

One of the rarest and most threatened mammals on earth, the Saola, has been photographed in the wild in Vietnam for the first time since 1999. This unusual species was photographed on 7 September in the Central Annamite mountains by a camera trap set by the WWF in co-operation with the Vietnamese Forest Protection Department.

The Saola was only discovered in 1992, making it the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years. Due to the animal’s elusive nature, scientists have been unable to make a precise population estimate. WWF estimates that at best, no more than a few hundred, and maybe only a few tens, survive in the remote, dense forests along the Vietnam-Laos border.

The Saola is similar in appearance to an antelope, but are in fact family of cattle. It is called the Asian Unicorn because it is so rarely seen. It is recognized by two parallel horns with sharp ends which can reach 127cm in length.

Dang Dinh Nguyen, Deputy Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department and Director of Quang Nam’s Saola Nature Reserve described the rediscovery as “an historic moment in Vietnam’s efforts to protect our extraordinary biodiversity, and provides powerful evidence of the effectiveness of conservation efforts in critical Saola habitat.”

Saola Distribution

Saola Distribution

The Saola sighting confirms the species’ persistence in Vietnam’s Central Annamite mountains making it an icon for biodiversity in the Annamite mountains that run along the border of Vietnam and Laos.

The rediscovery will help WWF and their partners in the search for other Saolas, and in targeting the essential protection needed. In a statement, WWF says that they are providing alternative livelihood options for communities bordering the Saola Nature Reserves to help reduce poaching and provide much needed income to villagers. WWF considers this work as a critical complement to law enforcement and protection efforts, which will help the recovery of wildlife across the Central Annamites.

Species Summary

Common name: Saola

Scientific name: Pseudoryx nghetinhensis



Female saola

Female saola, Lak Xao, Bolikhamxay Province, Laos,
1996. © William Robichaud


Conservation status:

Conservation status


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Bovinae

Genus: Pseudoryx

Species: P. nghetinhensis

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