The Saola is a species of antelope natively found in the forests on the border of north-central Vietnam and Laos. They are one of the most recently discovered large mammals in the world but are now also believed to be one of the rarest with estimated population numbers just in the tens of individuals. Although the Saola closely resembles the Arabian desert antelopes, they are thought to be more closely related to Wild Cattle. The Saola however is such a distinctive and unique animal, that after their discovery in 1992, they were given a taxonomic group of their own. They are incredibly rare and elusive mammals, and still today, very little is actually known about the Saola. The Saola is also known as the Asian Unicorn, which is not thought to be particularly related to it's long horns, but more the fact that it is just so rare.
Although very little is still known about the rare Saola living deep in the jungles, they are thought to be mainly preyed on by larger animals including tigers and crocodiles that they share their habitats with. The biggest threat to the Saola however, is the hunting of them for their horns which are a prized trophy amongst locals. Not only that but they are also commonly caught in traps that are set for other animals and have been severely affected by habitat loss through both deforestation and growing human settlements in the fertile lowlands around the base of the mountains, where they would have once most commonly roamed.
Today, the Saola is listed by the IUCN as being an animal that is Critically Endangered in it's natural environment. Despite the fact that no formal survey has been conducted, the IUCN estimates that populations could have been as low as 250 when the Saola was first recorded in the summer of 1992, a number that is thought to have dropped significantly since then due to the increased growth of human settlements. WWF claim that the rareness, distinctiveness and uniqueness of the Saola, make it one of the greatest priorities to conservation in the Indochina region today. A small 61 square mile reserve has just been set up in the Quang Nam province in central Vietnam, specifically to try and protect the dwindling populations of Saola today.