One of the first questions we often get when talking with people about SAOLA is, “What does it mean?” This is the part where if not careful, the conversation can quickly morph into one that feels a little like showing all your family vacation photos to someone who only asked, ‘How was your trip?’. But it’s just because we’re really excited! Stick with us on this one – it’ll come full circle.
First, the literal: A saola is one of the rarest animals on the planet, found in the Annamite Mountains, along the border of Vietnam and Laos. Incredibly, it was only discovered in 1992, and before going any further with the story, let’s just stop and think about that for a second.
A SPECIES…was DISCOVERED…in 1992. That fact alone leads to so many questions. How…what…but…where…???
So anyway, a team from Vietnam’s Ministry of Forestry and WWF biologists set out to survey the biodiversity of the newly founded Vu Quang National Park. And while surveying the remote forests, a member of the group discovered a pair of unfamiliar horns at the home of a local hunter. The next day, they stumbled upon similar remains – a skull with two long parallel horns. And later, a carcass with the same set of horns. Naturally, they were blown away. The discovery of the saola was the first large mammal new to science in over 50 years, making it one of the most remarkable modern-day wonders in zoology!
Dubbed the Asian unicorn (obviously another reason we loved it for our brand name), the saola remains incredibly elusive, as only a handful of sightings in the wild having occurred since its discovery. With estimated populations falling between 250-300 animals, there are no saolas in captivity and they remain on the critically endangered list. Sadly, this is the last list to land on before becoming considered extinct.
The story of the enigmatic saola, from discovery to its current state, struck us as both an inspirational story of hope, and a grave reminder of the fragile state of our eco-system. This balance between the opposing viewpoints - the belief that despite all of the grievous news read there is hope for our planet and our future as humans - is the reason we’ve created Saola. Well, okay – also because we REALLY want to wear eco-friendly shoes that actually look cool. But as environmentalists, concerned citizens of the world, and lovers of all-things-outdoor, we are very much aware that our natural world needs more resources in order to survive the escalating threats.
That is why 3% of SAOLA sales will be donated to environmental conservation projects. We are carefully reviewing non-profit organizations big and small, global and regional, to determinate where we can have the greatest impact, and will provide three specific projects supporting land, water, and wildlife conservation for you to choose from when you check out.
Please stay tuned to saolashoes.com for updates on the organizations and projects we select.
And remember, together, we can #MAKEANIMPACT!