The remarkable saola is one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on the planet. As such, it is a priority species for CEPF investment in the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. During its initial investment in the hotspot, CEPF provided more than $600,000 in funding to 10 grantees with the goal of controlling overexploitation of the species.
CEPF support to WWF from May 2010 to August 2012 aimed to secure core populations of saola by addressing immediate threats and developing economic alternatives to hunting, which poses the greatest threat to the species. CEPF also provided funding for forest guard patrols to remove snares in protected areas, including the site where the saola was recently photographed by WWF.
“Since 2011, forest guard patrols in the CarBi (Carbon Sinks and Biodiversity Conservation) area have removed more than 30,000 snares from this critical saola habitat and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters’ camps,” said Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF-Vietnam’s country director and lead contact for the CEPF-supported project. “Confirmation of the presence of the saola in this area is a testament to the dedicated and tireless efforts of these forest guards.”
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Saola photographed by camera trap in September. © WWF
The recent sighting of a saola confirms the species still exists in the wild, but scientists don’t know enough yet to estimate the total population. According to the IUCN Red List, the number of saola in the wild is likely less than 750, and likely much less.
“In Vietnam, the last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998,” said Dang Dinh Nguyen, deputy head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department and director of Quang Nam’s Saola Nature Reserve. “This is a historic moment in Vietnam’s efforts to protect our extraordinary biodiversity, and provides powerful evidence of the effectiveness of conservation efforts in critical saola habitat.”
Protecting the habitat that is home to the saola is essential to the species survival, as well as to the survival of other rare species that are found in the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. It will also ensure forest conservation and can empower the communities who depend on these forests for livelihoods, food, water and more. This will help achieve CEPF investment priorities in the hotspot, as well as promote progress toward achieving the targets set in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s strategic plan – the overarching framework on biodiversity for the entire United Nations system – for biodiversity from 2011-2020.