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Vietnam to Launch First-Ever Saola Conservation Program in 2018

Bach Ma National Park, located in Thua Thien-Hue province, will be home to a breeding center for endangered saolas that will open by early 2018.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced the project at the second-annual Soala Day on July 9. They will be working in partnership with the Saola Working Group under the International Union for Conservation of Nature to create the first-ever conservation program for the saola, a rare, distant relative of the antelope so uncommon that it has never been seen in the wild by a biologist, according to VnExpress.

The saola is one of the world’s rarest large animals. They were once dubbed the "Asian Unicorn" because of their rarity, as reported by National GeographicThe species was discovered in Vietnam in 1992 and since then, only 10 have ever been captured alive, all in Laos and Vietnam.

Of those 10, most were returned to the forests, while the rest died in captivity. In 2010, the last known saola to be caught alive died after a week in captivity, according to VietnamNet.

However, finding a saola, capturing it and keeping it alive will be the biggest challenge for conservationists. Since 2010, only camera traps have obtained images of the animals, and the last such picture was taken in central Vietnam in 2013.

The coordinator of the Saola Conservation Program, William Robichaud, is hopeful about the newly announced effort to save the saola. He told VnExpress: "With the support and expertise of some of the world’s premier field conservation organizations, leading conservation-oriented zoos and the governments of both countries [Laos and Vietnam], we are well-positioned to make a difference before it’s too late.”

[Photo via The Nation]

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