When scientists discovered the antelope-like Saola in 1992 on the border of Vietnam and Laos, the astonishing finding marked the first discovery of a large mammal in 50 years and spurred conservationists to action. Today, GWC is working with the IUCN Saola Working Group (SWG) to save the Critically Endangered species from extinction—and we’re getting some creative help from volunteers at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, through their Catching Hope Re-purposed Poaching Snare program.
Catching Hope volunteers create artistic and one-of-a-kind dream catchers and key chains from illegal hunting snares that ranger teams in Vietnam and Laos have collected. The Zoo then sells the crafts to raise funds for GWC and SWG to train and hire local people living in and around Saola habitat to remove more snares from the forests of the Annamite Mountains on the border of Vietnam and Laos. This helps not only the critically endangered Saola, but also the local people and neighboring wildlife. In addition to the Saola, the region is home to some of the most mysterious and near-mythological wildlife species, such as the Annamite-striped Rabbit, Annamite Dark Muntjac and Owston’s Civet.
The Saola is so elusive that no biologist has ever seen one in the wild, earning the species the nickname Asian “unicorn.” Likely less than 100 Saola are left in the world, making it one of the planet’s most endangered mammals. Although poachers do not target Saola specifically, the animals are killed as by-catch in poachers’ snares laid out for black-market species.
If you’re interested in purchasing a Catching Hope dream catcher or key chain in support of Saola conservation, place your order by contacting the Henry Vilas Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo by Nathan Dallesasse)