The Good Friday

A highly distinctive, solitary ungulate dwelling in deep forest, utterly unknown to the outside world until 1992, the saola is so unusual that is has been given its own genus: Pseudoryx.
“Not only is it its own genus, some believe it merits its own tribe with the Bovinae (the mammalian group which includes wild and domestic cattle, buffaloes, yak and some antelopes).
Saola is unlike anything known before,” says zoologist William Robichaud .

“Ironically, saola is one of the only wild Southeast Asian mammals bigger than a squirrel without a significant price on its head.
Most endangered terrestrial vertebrates in Southeast Asia are threatened primarily by wildlife trade, either for bushmeat or traditional East Asian medicine (or a few specialty luxuries such as ivory).
All sorts of taxa are getting hammered by this—turtles, pangolins, elephants, rhinos, deer, primates, bears, tigers, other cats, etc.
The Chinese never knew saola, and so it does not appear in their traditional pharmacopeia.
But snares set in the jungle for other species have pushed the saola to the edge of extinction.


Martha was captured by Hmong villagers in January, 1996 in response to a cash reward and lived for three weeks.
(Saola need a specialized, varied diet of particular plants found in the Annamite Mountains.)

A Buddhist monk who came to see her told me,  ‘A nickname we have for saola is the “polite animal”, because it always walks slowly and quietly through the forest, and is never obstinate.’
Another Lao man who came to see her said, ‘The only thing saola are afraid of is dogs.’

She died at dusk on a Friday. Felt like Good Friday.
No living saola has been seen by the outside world since.
To compound the sense of loss, she turned out to be pregnant with a male fetus.

The impetus across Asia is development at any cost, not conservation for future generations.
It wouldn’t be surprising in a decade or two to read that the long-unknown saola had vanished into the jungle’s shadows for good.”