Elusive Horned Animal Not Yet Seen by Scientists in the Wild

Photo by Bill Robichaud
Image: Bill Robichaud via Flickr

This animal is real — but has never before been seen in the wild by a scientist.

The saola is a genetically distinct mammal with relations to cattle, goats, and antelope. This five foot long being is the largest animal known to man that hardly anything is known about.

Saola inhabit the wet forests of the Annamite Mountains of Indochina. While local villages and hunters have always been familiar with them, it was not until recently they were officially recognized on a biological scale, after surveyors discovered the prized horns in a hunter’s household. 

Photo Credit Wikipedia Image: Wikipedia

Its genetic variation from other mammals attributes to its unique rarity.  The saola are the perfect epitome of the valuable biodiversity of the Annamite area — and they are in grave danger. The animal’s natural habitat is an area riddled with snares and constantly threatened by poachers. While hunters seek out the more valuable carcasses of tigers, elephants and pandas, saola become unintentional causalities due to their shared environments.

This issue of these critically endangered animals is difficult to address due to the remoteness of their inhabitation. Lack of information makes for limited support for public conservation — especially when the people that are closest to them prefer them for their meat or trophy horns.

Despite the near scientific invisibility of the saola, steps are being made in the right direction. The Saola Working Group was established in the mid 2000s and has since initiated a massive snare removal program and provision of local education. The local villages and public resources combined can help save the elusive saola and offer scientists a chance to finally observe them in the wild.

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