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Physical and Behavioral Description of a Captive Saola, Pseudoryx nghetinhensis

William G. Robichaud
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1382970 394-405 First published online: 20 May 1998


Since the discovery of the saola, Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, in central Viet Nam in 1992, little has been learned about this new bovid's behavior or ecology, and its taxonomic position remains in question; some place it in the subfamily Bovinae, others in Caprinae. In January 1996, a pregnant female was captured in central Laos and placed in a nearby menagerie. This was the first adult saola seen by the outside world and provided an opportunity to gather basic information about the species. The animal survived 18 days, during which time notes were made of her morphology and behavior. Noteworthy among physical traits were size and complexity of her maxillary glands and presence of pored skin nodules corresponding to white markings on the face. The saola exhibited remarkably tame behavior among humans, but intense stereotyped reactions toward domestic dogs. Characteristics such as round pupils and presence of four mammae fell more into the pattern of Bovinae than Caprinae. Other traits such as unique development of the maxillary gland were unlike either subfamily. This was among thirteen saola known to have been captured in Viet Nam and Laos since 1994, all of which soon died except one that was released. Consequently, basic field studies of the animal's requirements should probably precede any further attempts at live capture.

Key words
  • Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
  • saola
  • behavior
  • bovid
  • glands
  • Laos