An introduction image of Sao la, Google and WWF-Vietnam kicked off the Preserve the Sao la’s footprints’ campaign to save this endangered species by raising awareness and calling for actions from the public. The Sao la, native to the Annamite Mountains, spanning the border between Việt Nam and Laos, is symbolic of the rich biodiversity of Việt Nam and the wider Mekong region.
A Sao la photographed in the wild in Việt Nam
The Sao la is considered to be critically endangered with the global population being estimated to be less than 100. Habitat loss caused by human development, rampant snaring to supply the illegal wildlife trade and climate change are threatening the entire species with extinction.
Google was launching a 3D Augmented Reality (AR 3D) Sao la on Google Search that global users use to view a Sao la close up, with full details of this spectacular species, on their smart devices. This was the first time Google had digitized one of Việt Nam’s rare wild animals and produced an AR 3D replica.
In launching the campaign and AR 3D Sao la, Google and the WWF-Vietnam hope to bring the species closer to the public and help people to better understand the way that their behavior and activity impacts nature and rare wildlife. The campaign started in July 2021, will include two phases. The first phase, titled: “Follow the Sao la’s footprints”, will bring to the audience interesting information about Sao la, resolving common misunderstandings about the critically endangered species. In the second phase, via online interactive activities, the public will learn about how their daily consumption behavior may impact the Sao la, other wild animals and nature.
Country Manager of Việt Nam, Laos and Cambodia at Google Asia Pacific Trâm Nguyễn said: “By bringing the AR 3D model of Sao la on Google search, we’d like to introduce to the world this rare, endangered animal. You will get to see them up close, in the most vivid way possible. Google hopes to apply its technology in conservation efforts, digitizing information and images, so that they can be accessed by everyone which is the objective of this campaign”.
Dr. Văn Ngọc Thịnh, CEO of WWF-Vietnam said: “WWF-Vietnam appreciates Google’s effort in using their brand to support conservation and biodiversity. We are also delighted to join forces with Google in other activities to raise public awareness and call for public actions for the Sao la, bringing hope for a brighter future for our country’s biodiversity”.
Since the species was first discovered in 1992, in Vũ Quang Nature Reserve, in Hà Tĩnh, only about 10 Sao la have ever been captured alive. They were all caught by local villagers in Laos and Việt Nam but without professional veterinary and husbandry care, the longest that any of the animal’s life was a few months at most. The last Sao la known to be captured alive was in 2010 in a village in Laos. It died in less than a week. Biologists have also only photographed the species five times in the wild in the last 25 years, all by camera traps - twice in Laos and three times in Việt Nam. The most recent camera trap photos were taken in 2013, when the WWF captured images of the animal in a Sao la nature reserve in central Việt Nam. It was the first photo of a Sao la in the wild in more than 15 years.
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition II - 2021)