31 July 2018
Dear Friends of the Saola:
Greetings from the heart of the rainy season in Laos. As I write, the country is
still reeling from and responding to last week’s collapse of a dam in the
southern part of the country, and the resultant loss of life and homes. If the
spirit so moves you, please hold the affected villagers in your prayers.
Despite this recent tragedy, the rainy season is generally a time of renewal
and abundance. Tables in the markets overflow with a plethora of tropical
fruits, and paddy fields are aglow with the luminescent green of young rice
This season also marks the start, as of July 1, of the fiscal and work year for
the Saola Working Group. Consequently, last month, leaders of the SWG’s
technical teams and some other members based nearby met for three days in
Suffolk, England, to draft our annual work plan. We owe abundant thanks to
the Zoological Society of East Anglia (and in particular, ZSEA’s David Field,
Terry Hornsey and Gary Batters) for generously hosting us for several days of
The meeting highlighted the collaborative strength of the SWG, with several
organizations, and diverse expertise (such as field research, and captive
breeding), together in the room. The team drafted the SWG’s most ambitious
annual plan yet, covering an intense – and urgent - program of fieldwork,
awareness, and preparation of the captive breeding center in Vietnam. Work
is already underway - SWG member Chanthasone Phommachanh (“Olay”)
just returned to Vientiane from three (very wet!) weeks of survey near Xe Sap
National Protected Area in Laos.
SWG technical planning team; Lowestoft, England, June 2018.
Vital to the success of the SWG’s work is the commitment and generosity of
our donors, large and small. Together (including many of you reading this),
we are joined in a partnership to save the saola.
A ‘hotspot’ of such support is the Czech Republic, and in particular Czech
zoos. There’s something in the water there (or in the excellent beer?) – I am
continually amazed by both the intense interest, and deep knowledge, that
Czech people hold for wildlife, and in particular for wildlife in distant places
beyond the Czech border – such as Vietnam and Laos. And this is expressed
by the fact that zoos in five Czech cities now provide ongoing financial support
to the SWG: Prague, Ostrava, Zlin, Liberec and Plzen. In addition to this
individual zoo support, the Union of Czech and Slovak Zoos recently awarded
a grant to the SWG. Děkuji!
Czech zoo support for saola takes some different and creative forms. Zoo
Ostrava in eastern Czech Republic named its new restaurant after the saola,
and some of the restaurant’s revenues benefit the SWG. Zoo Zlin installed a
beautiful display in its zoo, where visitors can express their support for saola
by ‘voting’ with a cash donation to saola conservation.
The Saola Restaurant, at Zoo Ostrava.
Saola donation display at Zoo Zlin.
In regards to this remarkable level of Czech support, Miroslav Bobek, Director
of Prague Zoo, wrote, “The unique story of the saola, its extraordinariness and
mystique, is what motivated us to support the Saola Working Group. No less
important, however, is the fact that the SWG’s efforts to find and rescue saola
are also beneficial for many other endangered species.”
We are deeply grateful to saola’s many Czech friends. If you would like to
follow their example, and join them in supporting the SWG’s upcoming year of
critical work, please use the “Donate” button below – with much gratitude.
In closing, I’ll note something else that many Czech zoos share: they are
some of the most beautiful zoos in the world – well worth a visit if you ever
have the opportunity.
With sincere regards,
Coordinator, Saola Working Group