This extremely rare and unique species was discovered in 1992 and only found in the Annamite Mountains bordering Laos and Vietnam. Saola are shy, solitary creatures and the species is now critically endangered with the global population estimated between 50-250 individuals. There is very little known about Saola, with very few recorded sightings by science. The most recent verified sighting occurred during August 2010 in the Phou Sithone Endangered Species Conservation Area, a WCS supported site in Bolikhamxay Province Lao PDR.
The principle threat to the Saola is the unregulated hunting of ungulates and other large animals, mainly with snares and traps, for subsistence and for trade. Thousands of snares have been found in areas identified as key Saola habitat, posing a formidable threat to the species. Mitigating such threats requires not only creating incentivised enforcement strategies in the short-term but working with local communities to ensure their participation in the management of conservation areas. It is also critically important to deal with the larger changes to habitat and encroachment by large-scale expansions such as agriculture, mining and hydropower.
Although, precious little is known about the species WCS is working with partners in two landscapes to discover more and implement actions responding to threats endangering this magnificent animal. This includes building local management capacity, conducting surveys in priority areas, trialling novel methods to learn more about the distribution of the species, establishing law enforcement, and working with local government and communities to build support for conservation.