‘THE ASIAN UNICORN’ SAVING THE SAOLA
PROJECT HISTORY & AIMS
Discovered in 1993, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is one of the most endangered mammals in Asia with numbers estimated below 750 individuals and it is likely to be much less. Classed as critically endangered, threats to their numbers include snare hunting, the bushmeat trade and fragmentation of existing habitats. There are currently no saola in captivity.
The Saola Working Group (SWG) is part of the Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). The SWG was formed in 2006 in recognition of the need for urgent, coordinated action to save the saola from extinction.
Progress continued towards the establishment in Vietnam of the world’s first captive breeding centre for Saola.
These are some of the main points of progress from 2016/2017:
- Poland’s Wroclaw Zoo has agreed to be the institution that will oversee long term, day-to-day management of the captive breeding centre.
- In March 2016, a joint team made up of representatives from the SWG, Wroclaw Zoo and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) toured six potential sites in Vietnam for possible construction of the centre. After consultation within the SWG and MARD, Bach Ma National Park was selected as the site for the centre’s construction.
- The SWG’s Conservation Breeding Task Team, working with MARD, completed final drafts of a Memorandum of Agreement for implementation of the conservation breeding programme, and a draft of the accompanying and more detailed Project Document.
- In September 2016, members of the Conservation Breeding Task Team, and some of SWG’s key supporters, met to discuss strategy and next steps during the annual conference of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
- In November 2016, the new Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission visited Vietnam, and in meetings with government officials in Hanoi, pledged support for the conservation breeding effort.
- In February 2017, some of the SWG Conservation Breeding Task Team, along with a zoo designer and representatives of MARD spent three days inspecting different sites within Bach Ma National Park for the best place to site the captive breeding centre. A consensus decision was reached, and about 35 ha and some existing infrastructure near the park headquarters is where the centre will be built. A survey of the site is in the process of being arranged, and once completed, will allow detailed design of facilities.
- In February & March 2017, the SWG held its 5th bi-annual meeting in Hue, Vietnam. The 4 day meeting covered a lot of ground and from it, a long and important work list was produced.
HOW IS AFRICA ALIVE! SUPPORTING THE SAOLA WORKING GROUP?
In the past five years Africa Alive! has donated £23,750 to the SAOLA WORKING GROUP.
A combination of financial donations and staff time.
For more information please www.savethesaola.org.
Photos courtesy of Saola Working Group