The saola is found in a number of protected areas in which conservation initiatives have been implemented. In Vietnam, in the Vu Quang Nature Reserve, where the saola was first discovered, the Ministry of Forestry has cancelled its logging operations (8), and surveys and other conservation activities have also been conducted in the Pu Huong Nature Reserve, in cooperation with Vietnam's Vinh University (7). Furthermore, within the Pu Mat National Park, many surveys on the distribution and ecology of the saola were carried out between 1998 and 2003, as part of the Social Forestry and Nature Conservation project (7). The Ministry of Forestry in Vietnam has also issued a ban on further capture, trade, or holding of this rare animal, given its apparent inability to survive captivity (2).
In Laos, the Nam Theun 2 dam project provides US $1 million per year for 30 years for protection of the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area (NNT NPA), the largest protected area with the saola in Laos or Vietnam. The Wildlife Conservation Society is working with provincial government partners and industry to protect the saola in key areas north and south of NNT NPA, which are not in national protected areas (10).
In 2006, the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group established a Saola Working Group, to bring more focused attention to saola conservation (11). The WWF Greater Mekong Programme has also been actively involved in the conservation of the saola in Vietnam, setting up initiatives like the Vu Quang Project, which endeavoured to improve the conservation management and support the livelihoods of local people in the area where the saola was discovered (5). WWF has also been active in helping provincial authorities establish three new adjoining protected areas for the saola in the southern part of its range. The first two of these areas were established in 2010. In collaboration with WWF and provincial governments, the Darwin Initiative is, until 2012, supporting research on patterns of hunting and their impacts on saola in the same landscape. In addition, in 2003, WWF produced a documentary showing the plight of the saola, which was shown on Vietnamese television (6), and a research programme on the saola, undertaken by WWF, is ongoing (8).
Despite these conservation efforts, however, the future of this enigmatic and beautiful bovid remains uncertain, and an ongoing push to save it now ensues. There are few wildlife species in the world, if any, that share saola’s combination of biological distinctiveness, degree of endangerment, and modest level of conservation attention. We are now at a point in history where a small window remains to save this remarkable animal (10).