We’re taking a look at the mysterious saola today on Light Future Art, sharing some fun facts about this animal that scientists still don’t know so much about.
1. The saola was only discovered by scientists in 1992! The Vu Quang Nature Reserve was making a survey and discovered that a hunter had a type of horn which they weren’t familiar with, a saola’s. This made the saola the first mammal to be discovered in Vietnam in 50 years.
2. A live saola wasn’t actually seen by a scientist until 1998. Another was not seen by a scientist until 2010.
3. Saola means “spindle horns” in Vietnamese. This name comes from the long, smooth horns which both males and females have. Their horns are often almost two feet long.
4. Saolas are also known by a few other names, such as “Asian unicorns” and “Vu Quang oxes”. Their rarity only adds to the mystical image of the “Asian unicorn”.
5. The natural habitat of saolas is the Annamite mountains. These mountains are remote and difficult to navigate, which is mostly why saolas are so rarely observed. The majority of information about these animals comes from local observers rather than study by scientists.
6. While saolas look similar to antelope or deer, they are actually most closely related to cattle.
7. Soalas are normally solitary but will sometimes gather in groups of two or three. The largest group ever witnessed was seven individuals, reported by Vietnamese locals. Unfortunately, it is unknown exactly how many individuals there are, and saolas are regarded as critically endangered.
8. Saolas don’t do well in captivity. Unfortunately, a few saolas who were captured by scientists died shortly after being taken into captivity. Now it is illegal to take a saola into captivity.
9. Although saolas are often high in the Annamite mountains, they do migrate down to lower grasslands in the winter, when the water in the mountains has frozen.
10. It is believed that most saola pregnancies are with a single calf, during the end of the rainy season, around September and October. The majority of soala groups reported are mothers and their calves.
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