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Global Ideas

Leeches on the trail of the rare saola

Conservationists in Vietnam have tried in vain to track down the rare, endangered and elusive saola. They can't protect it until they know where it lives. To help in the search, they have enlisted blood-sucking leeches.

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Project objectives: To develop and implement sustainable management for a species-rich, trans-border forest complex of four conservation areas and two connected corridors in Vietnam and Laos.
Project size: The total program area covers more than 500,000 hectares.
Implementation: The program runs for a period of six years and targets local populations in more than 100 villages in the area around the protected areas and forest corridors; CarBi employs 75 people.
Program budget: 7 million euros from BMU/IKI, and another 3 million from WWF and the Vietnamese government.

The saola, a forest-dwelling bovine, is one of the most rare and mysterious species on the planet. It was first discovered 23 years ago - but is so shy that it was rarely spotted again. Conservationists know they live somewhere in the Annamite Range between Vietnam and Laos - but not exactly where. They are equally in the dark about the number of animals still alive, and fear erosion of natural habitat and use of snares could wipe saolas out altogether. WWF scientists have been using cameras to try and find out more about the elusive saola - so far, to no avail. They are now turning to leeches to help them.

A film by Grit Hofmann

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