Serow

Not all of the interesting animals living in the Annamites are endemic. Many wide-ranging species have strongholds in this region and deserve inclusion in the Species Spotlight. Today we turn to one of the more common ungulates found in the jungles of Vietnam and Laos: the mainland serow (Capricornis milneedwardsii). Common, yes—but a fascinating species in its own right. To me the serow is interesting because of what it is not. It’s not a goat or an antelope but rather something in between. The serow is a member of the Caprinae subfamily, which contains odd-looking goat-antelopes, including markhor, thar, bharal, chamois, takin, and several other crossword puzzle candidates. Like their evolutionary cousins in the ibex family, these species tend to live in steep mountainous terrain. The serow is no exception. I have found its tracks on near vertical slopes. It ranges across much of Asia and viable populations are found in several parts of Indochina. A mature serow will weigh around 200 lbs and stand four feet at the shoulder. It has thick course hair ranging from grizzled gray to black and there is a noticeable ridge of guard hairs along the back. The body is stocky and muscular. Its head is horse-like in appearance with over-sized ears. The horns are medium-sized, smooth, and curve slightly back.

Despite the fact that sizable populations exist in several countries in Southeast Asia, the mainland serow is still in a steady state of decline. This is particularly true in Laos and Vietnam where snaring has negatively impacted all large mammal populations. In Vietnam serow are prized for their meat and can often be found in rural markets. Its bones and other body parts are also used for medicinal purposes. Because of these threats the IUCN lists the serow as Near Threatened. Of course this also means that the serow is faring better than other large ungulates in the Annamites such as Saola and Large-antlered muntjac. The group I am working with at WWF has captured several serow images in the Hue Saola Nature Reserve using camera traps. Along with wild pig and red muntjac, it’s the most commonly photographed ungulate. It’s always a treat to check the cameras and find a picture of this unique animal. Serow was also detected in the leeches from the original leech paper. To protect serow populations it is essential to reduce poaching. Decreasing the number of snares that are set in the forest would have an immediate impact on serow—and all other mammals living in these jungles.

Serow camera trap photo
Serow camera trap photo

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