The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced on November 22 a financial aid package of US$213,773 for the central province of Thua Thien - Hue in order to protect the enigmatic Saola’s reserve.
The German government also plans to give US$2.1 million for the protection project for the Saola or Vu Quang ox (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis).
|Pairs of Saola’s horns found in a residents house ( Photo: SGGP)|
One of the goals of the project is to eliminate the use of traps and banned hunting dogs from protected areas.
Saola is a forest-dwelling bovine found only in the Annamite ranges of Vietnam and Laos. The species was first discovered in Vietnam in 1996 at a village in Ho, in the Thua Thien-Hue’s district of Huong Thuy.
Le Ngoc Tuan, director of the reserve in Thua Thien – Hue province, said his organization has carried out a survey from November 2006 to February 1997 in five districts. The survey showed that the rare mammal has appeared in 19 communes in five districts. These were A Luoi, Nam Dong, Huong Thuy, Huong Tra and Phong Dien. Officials also collected 27 pairs of horns and skulls.
In 1998, forest wardens and local residents manage to save a female pregnant Saola and in 1999, eight-kilogram Saola was discovered in the wood in the district of A Luoi. However, it died after eight days. Since then, scientists have not found any more Saolas in the wild, although many searches have been conducted.
The Saola's rarity, distinctiveness and vulnerability make it one of the greatest priorities for conservation in the region. Despite little information available on the Saola, there is no doubt that its existence is severely threatened.
Since its discovery, it is believed to have rapidly declined in the face of ever-increasing human presence, although the actual size of the remaining population is still unknown. According to scientists and researchers on wildlife, Saola numbers had crashed to around 200 worldwide.
Mr. Tuan said that the Saola is at a high risk of being hunted and will panic if it sees hunting dogs in the woods. Moreover, many Saola’s are trapped and killed, since the illegal sales and hunting of the Saola are rampant in the province.
The WWF and Vietnam authorities have carried out a plan for the period between 2005-2010 in six central provinces (from Nghe An to Quang Nam). Forest wardens have eliminated all traps to catch the Saola. Three protection stations now protect the endanger species. However, Mr. Tuan complained that he still needs more personnel in order to perform his protection work of the Saola successfully.
|From 2006-2008, the WWF and the Forest Protection Department of Thua Thien - Hue province, have run a four-year Green Corridor project, with funding from the World Bank - GEF, WWF, Thua Thien Hue PPC and SNV. The aim of this project is to strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders and conserve the landscape of the Green Corridor area.|
The project is expected to save and facilitate the development of Sao La deer and several endemic animals that are in extreme danger of extinction, such as Truong Son Muntjac, the douc langur, the white-cheeked gibbon and other newly discovered species.
Two reserves in districts A Luoi and Nam Dong were established in April, 2010. The reserves have an area of 12,153 hectares.