Saving Saola from snares

25 January 2013 | News story

An initiative created by the Saola Working Group of IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Greater Mekong Programme has removed and destroyed 26,651 snares from the forests of Viet Nam and Laos that are home to the rare and elusive Saola.

Listed as Critically Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, the greatest threat to the Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) are snares that are set for other wildlife in the forests along the border of Viet Nam and Laos, the only place in the world where this species is found. Although Saola have a low value in the wildlife trade, the snares that are set for more valuable animals are indiscriminate.

To tackle this threat, the SSC Saola Working Group worked with their partner WWF Greater Mekong Programme to develop an initiative to privately fund, train and supervise forest guards hired from the local community. WWF implemented this scheme in 2011 in the Hue Saola Nature Reserve, Viet Nam and later expanded it to two more sites: a reserve in Quang Nam Province, Viet Nam and another in Laos. Between February 2011 and September 2012 a total of 19,593 snares were collected from these sites. In addition, data collected by WWF shows that the snare encounter rate has dropped indicating that the forests guides are successful at removing snares and keeping them out of the forests.

In Laos, a similar project has been established by another IUCN SSC Saola Working Group partner, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Despite funding constraints that force the project to operate on a smaller scale, patrol teams have been established in the new Phou Sithone Endangered Species Conservation Area established by Bolikhamxay Province specifically to protect Saola. Between September 2011 and November 2012 the patrols collected 7,058 snares.

Described as the most concrete on-the-ground result for Saola conservation since the species’ scientific discovery 20 years ago, these efforts have removed a total of 26,651 snares, saving the lives of Saola and other wildlife in the region.