The saola antelope, sometimes called an asian unicorn (even though it has two horns) will get about sixty square miles of wild land set aside as a nature preserve in Vietnam. There may only be about 20 to 30 of these creatures left in the wild, and there are none in captivity. While this new preserve is good news, it is not exactly good in the sense that it took the species becoming nearly extinct for any constructive action to take place.
Another estimate says there are 50 to 60 of the reclusive antelope. Creating a preserve for them was obviously both necessary and long overdue. Particularly because even at their dangerously low level of population, there are still villagers that hunt them. Ethnic minorities in remote rural areas of Vietnam are poor, and hunting for animals in forests is a traditional, consistent way of finding food. The new nature preserve is supposed to stop that hunting and protect the remaining saola. As forest official Pham Thanh Lam said, “They would not spare the saola, so it’s necessary to create conditions for them to earn their living to minimise hunting for wild animals including saola.” (Source: BBC)
Vietnamese rangers and World Wildlife Fund staff are supposed to patrol the saola habitat and prevent hunting. They also have aleady removed animal snares from the area where saola live. The land there contains many narrow valleys and waterfalls, with a high point of almost 1,300 meters. They eat plants and stay in mountain forests during the wet seaon. During winter they move down into the flat areas, but they have never been reported to eat plants cultivated by humans, so they are not a threat to agriculture.
Last year some villages captured an adult saola, but it died in captivity before conservationists could arrive and try to keep it alive for release back to the wild.
Image Credit: Silviculture