Saola in the Greater Mekong | WWF

With its unusually long horns and characteristic white markings on the face, the saola is a strong symbol for biodiversity in Lao and Vietnam.

Only recently discovered, the saola is already at risk. Its rarity, distinctiveness and vulnerability make it one of the greatest priorities for conservation in the Indochina region.

The saola is distributed in scattered locations in the Annamites, along the northwest-southeast Vietnam - Lao border. In Vietnam, the species is distributed from the Ca River in the north to Quang Nam province in the south, but its exact limits are not clearly known.

Within this area, distribution is patchy. In Lao, there are confirmed reports of the species in the southern part of Nakai-Nam Theun NBCA (National Biodiversity Conservation Area). Reports of saola south of this area include Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Hue and Quang Nam in Vietnam and Sekong in Lao.

A Storymap about the history and conservation of Saola can be found at:

Why is the saola threatened?

The main threats to the saola are hunting and fragmentation of its range through habitat loss.
  • Poaching: Snares set in the forest for wild boar, sambar or barking deer, also trap saola. Locals set some snares for subsistence use and crop protection, but recent increases in lowland people hunting to supply the illegal trade in wildlife has led to a massive increase in hunting pressure. In the north of its range, the saola is hunted for its horns which have become prized trophies.
  • Infrastructure development: In the Annamites, rapid and extensive infrastructure development is underway as the government attempts to reduce the high levels of rural poverty. This degrades the saola's natural habitat.

How is WWF protecting the saola in the Greater Mekong region?

WWF has been involved with the protection of the species since its discovery, through research, community-based forest management, capacity building and law enforcement strengthening.

► New reserves in Vietnam provide lifeline for saola