Wildlife of the Central Annamites

The forest-clad mountains that span central Viet Nam and Lao PDR host an incredible—but shrinking—array of wildlife. Learn more about a few of WWF’s priority species here.

Illustration by Phùng Nguyên Quang and Huỳnh Kim Liên
  1. Saola Pseudoryx nghetinhensis

    Asia’s Unicorn

    The enigmatic saola (pronounced sow-la), which means “spindle horns” in Vietnamese, is a solitary antelope-like mammal found only in the Annamite Mountains of Viet Nam and Lao PDR. Discovered by a team of WWF biologists and Vietnamese forestry officials during a survey in 1992, the saola was the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years.

    “The saola is the mascot and flagship species of the Annamites,” says Van Ngoc Thinh, CEO of WWF-Viet Nam. “It’s a very sensitive animal that needs clear water and primary forests, so if the species exists, it’s an indicator that the landscape is doing well.” The saola is also an inspiration for restoring forest habitat—including replanting native plants such as the leafy saola favorite, Homalomena occulta, an evergreen used in traditional medicine.

    The saola was last captured on film in 2013 by a camera trap, but scientists remain hopeful it persists in the wild. WWF is working with partners to track down the animals using camera traps, forest patrols, DNA analysis of scat samples, and environmental DNA sampling along streams. The goal? To find living animals and establish a rewilding program in the Central Annamites landscape.

  1. Asian elephant Elephas maximus

    Ecosystem Engineers

    The Asian elephant is the second-largest land mammal in the world (right behind its cousin the African elephant) and is found in 13 countries spanning South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Southern China.

    These extremely social creatures are known as “gardeners of the forest” because they play a crucial role in shaping the ecosystems where they live. But pressure from habitat loss and fragmentation, resulting in increased human-elephant conflict, has isolated some elephant populations in groups as small as a few hundred individuals. Today, the species is endangered and declining: Asian elephants in Southeast Asia and China, including those in the Central Annamites, are especially threatened.

    On World Elephant Day 2023, WWF established Elly Allies, a collaborative initiative working to tackle the threats confronting Asian elephants and to scale up regional conservation efforts to reverse population declines, safeguard and restore habitats, and move toward sustainable coexistence between elephants and people.

    “In the Central Annamites and all the places they call home, elephants face a number of threats and need our help,” says WWF donor Samuel G. Rose. “I love elephants and am happy to support WWF’s efforts to protect these majestic nomads so they can live peacefully and thrive.”

  1. Annamite pond turtle
    Mauremys annamensis
  2. Large-antlered muntjac
    Muntiacus vuquangensis
  3. Sunda pangolin
    Manis javanica
  1. Red-shanked douc langur
    Pygathrix nemaeus
  2. Annamite striped rabbit
    Nesolagus timminsi
  3. Owston’s civet
    Chrotogale owstoni
  1. Truong Son pit viper
    Trimeresurus truongsonensis
  2. Sun bear
    Helarctos malayanus

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status




Extinct in the Wild


Critically Endangered






Near Threatened


Least Concern


Data Deficient


Not Evaluated

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