Last year Bill Robichaud, coordinator of the IUCN SSC Saola Working Group (SWG), attended the EAZA Conservation Forum in Vienna (May, 2012) and the EAZA Annual Conference in Innsbruck (September, 2012). During these events contacts were made between SWG and EAZA members which in turn yielded promising and valuable arrangements for saola conservation.
One of those arrangements includes the sponsorship of a young, talented Lao conservationist. For long-term conservation of saola, one of the priorities of the IUCN SSC Saola Working Group (SWG) is to mentor and encourage young Lao and Vietnamese conservationists. In the short-term, one of the constraints to saola conservation is the paucity of people in Laos or Vietnam focusing on saola. Recently, with funding from EAZA member ZooParc de Beauval, the SWG addressed both issues, with the hiring of Anita Bousa.
Anita is a bright, promising graduate of the National University of Lao, who has work experience with (and high praise from) the Wildlife Conservation Society and IUCN. She recently returned to work at the WCS Lao Program office, and under an arrangement between WCS and the SWG, she will spend 50% time on wildlife monitoring for WCS, and 50% on saola, under the guidance of the SWG. She is the first Lao ever whose job is to focus on saola conservation. This is a major step forward, and hope, for conservation of the species.
In April this year the EAZA IUCN SSC Southeast Asia Campaign is promoting the 'Saola Awareness Month', with the aim of focusing attention on the campaign with the support of campaign flagship species such as the saola. Whilst the events are promoted as part of 'Saola Awareness Month' campaign participants are encouraged to select any species that helps to raise funds and awareness about the current biodiversity crisis in Southeast Asia.