Target: Minister of the Environment Nguyễn Minh Quang
Goal: Stop accidental killing of endangered saolas
Saolas are beautiful and unique animals, but they’re also incredibly endangered. They weren’t discovered until 1992 and it’s unknown how many remain in the wild—only 11 have ever been seen alive, as they are very shy and prefer untouched forests for their habitats. The saola is a bovine, and a cousin to cattle, goats, and antelopes. They are not usually the targets of hunting, but are often caught in wire snares by mistake. The World Wildlife Foundation and other conservation groups have removed over 30,000 wire snares from the forests saolas call home, but more must be done to secure the future of these wonderful creatures.
Because saolas are so reclusive and so few have been seen, little is known about them. By best estimates they reproduce roughly every seven to eight months and give birth to only one calf. A long gestation and low birth rate in addition to an already small population and accidental hunting make them critically endangered. If we don’t take action to save saolas now, they may not make it through another year.
Because few people, if any, are actively hunting saolas, the action we need to take is widespread. Wire snares are often the work of illegal poachers hunting in the woods that saolas call home—to stop this, the government needs to crack down on illegal hunting and support the poor communities in the area that have to rely on hunting for food and income. There isn’t a one-step solution to protecting the saolas; saving these animals from extinction will require changes on the part of the Vietnamese government as well as the communities that surround saola habitats. Ask the Vietnamese Minister of the Environment to push for saola conservation—these animals are found nowhere else in the world and we have to act fast before they disappear entirely.
Dear Minister Nguyễn,
Saolas are unique and special animals that only exist in untouched forests in Vietnam. They’re also terribly endangered—scientists don’t know how many still exist in the wild, but it could be as many as several hundred or as few as twenty. Though they’re not typically hunted for food or medicine, saolas are often caught by accident in wire snares used by illegal hunters. If this continues, saolas could be extinct as early as 2015.
Efforts in saola conservation are typically focused around removing the wire snares that catch the animals by mistake, but they are easily replaced because so many of those snares are placed by poachers from local communities. While removing snares is a good step, it would be more productive to remove the desire to hunt illegally in the first place by supporting the growth of the poor communities near saola habitats.
This is not an easy solution, but providing these communities with the means to be self-sufficient, including money and food, will eliminate much of the illegal hunting that goes on in the area as well as help these communities be healthier and happier. To save the few remaining saolas, please encourage efforts to eliminate illegal hunting by helping these communities become self-sufficient.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: JMK via Wikimedia Commons