By Kevin Heath
Camera traps are increasingly revealing long-lost species around the world. The latest success for the cameras is the re-appearance of the saola in Vietnam. It was last seen 15 years ago and offers new hope for one of the most endangered species on the planet.
The animal was photographed during a programme run by the WWF-Asia and Vietnam’s Forest Protection Department. The cameras had been set in the Central Annamite mountains during September.
“When our team first looked at the photos we couldn’t believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for South-east Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement,” said Dr. Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF-Vietnam’s Country Director. “This is a breath-taking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species.”
Dang Dinh Nguyen, Deputy Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department and Director of Quang Nam’s Saola Nature Reserve explained that “In Vietnam, the last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998, This is an 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. ”
A major project in the region to help protect wildlife including the saola is the Forest Guards Programme as part of the Preservation of Carbon Sinks and Biodiversity Conservation (CarBi) Programme. The programme sees members of the local communities being employed as Forest guards and they patrol the forests looking for snares and traps.
“Saola are caught in wire snares set by hunters to catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are largely destined for the lucrative illegal wildlife trade,” said Dr. Van Ngoc. “Since 2011, forest guard patrols in the CarBi area have removed more than 30,000 snares from this critical saola habitat and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters’ camps. Confirmation of the presence of the saola in this area is a testament to the dedicated and tireless efforts of these forest guards.”
William Robichaud, Coordinator of the Saola Working Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.highlighted that “These are the most important wild animal photographs taken in Asia, and perhaps the world, in at least the past decade. More....