The Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), also known as the Vu Quang Ox, is one of the world’s rarest animals. It is only found in Vietnam and in Laos, near the Vietnam-Laotian border. It is not known how many species exist as it was only first discovered by zoologists in 1992 and only 11 specimens have been recorded alive.
The saola occurs in the Annamite Range’s moist forests and the Eastern Indochina dry and monsoon forests. They have been spotted in steep river valleys at about 1000 to 6000 feet above sea level. These regions are distant from human settlements, covered primarily in evergreen or mixed evergreen and deciduous woodlands. The species seems to prefer edge zones of the forests.
Saolas stay in mountain forests during the wet seasons, when water in streams and rivers is abundant, and move down to the lowlands in winter. They are shy and never enter cultivated fields or come close to villages. To date, all known captive saolas have died, leading to the belief that this species cannot live in captivity.
The saola stands about 33.50 inches at the shoulder and weighs approximately 200 pounds. The coat is a dark brown with a black stripe along the back. Its legs are darkish and there are white patches on the feet, and white stripes vertically across the cheeks, on the eyebrows and splotches on the nose and chin. All saolas have slightly backward-curved horns, which grow to about 20 inches in length.
Saola mark their territories by opening up a fleshy flap on their snout to reveal scent glands. They subsequently rub the underside against objects leaving a musky, pungent paste. The saolas’ colossal scent glands are thought to be the largest of any living mammal.
They are reported to eat small leafy plants (especially fig leaves), and stems along rivers. Saolas generally live in small groups of less than five animals. The animal seems to have a browsing diet, considering its small incisors.