Science World
Science World for grades 6–10 brings science to life with fascinating feature articles and hands-on activities that reinforce science concepts and help students build test-taking and critical-thinking skills.

Secret Species

Scientists team up to discover and preserve tropical wildlife

May 8, 2006

In the early 1990s, as government researchers hiked through the forests of Vietnam, they spotted something they had never seen before: the top half of a skull with long, curved horns. The bones resembled a hybrid of a half-goat-half-antelope. Interviews with local residents who had collected the skull led researchers to conclude that it was from an animal called the saola.

Researchers who spotted the skull had never seen a saola alive in the wild, and no one today is sure how many exist. The saola is very large-85 kilograms (200 pounds). So how could a mammal this big go undiscovered by scientists for so long in a country smaller than California and packed with 85 million people?

Until the early 1990s, only people living in Vietnam and Laos knew of the saola's existence. That's because Vietnam had been isolated from much of the world since the mid-1940s due to years of conflicts, including the American war in Vietnam. Scientists from countries like the U.S. were blocked from studying there. Beginning in the early 1990s, Western scientists were able to study in this biologically diverse region.

Since 1997, scientists from the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York have worked alongside Vietnamese and other international researchers to catalogue newly discovered plants and animals. Their goal is to create awareness of the urgent need to conserve Vietnam's wildlife and their habitats.

"There are species in Vietnam that are not found anywhere else in the world," says Martha M. Hurley, a scientist working on the CBC's Vietnam project.

Since beginning their work, the CBC scientists and their collaborators have found a small zoo's worth of animals. They have found one genus and three species of mammals and many new amphibians, reptiles, and insects.

One of the species unique to Vietnam is the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. These primates have a bluish face and large clownlike lips. Unfortunately, these monkeys are critically endangered by hunting and forest loss.

What about Vietnam makes its wildlife unique? It has much to do with its mountainous geography and tropical climate. Mountains provide stable, humid habitats and shelter areas from outside influences. Plants and animals in these uplands can evolve and remain relatively undisturbed by changes in rainfall or temperature. The  mountains and forests make it hard for scientists to find these rare species. When they find an area with such plants and animals, the researchers work with the Vietnamese government to protect the wildlife within it. They also work with scientists there to create new ways to conserve the areas.

Hurley says it is important to protect these animals because if they die out in Vietnam, they are lost from the planet forever.

  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Tropical Rain Forest (Folding Manipulative): Animal Habitats

    Tropical Rain Forest (Folding Manipulative): Animal Habitats

    Unfold the layers of a tropical rain forest to discover the animals and plants that live there!

    A first look at habitats around the world that meets the life science curriculum standards, and includes the following:

    • background information
    • easy-to-follow instructions for assembly
    • discussion questions for after reading
    • activities to extend learning
    • related books and web sites
    • an easy-to-print, color, and assemble folding manipulative template

    ePage | Grades 2-3
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Tropical Rain Forest (Folding Manipulative): Animal Habitats
    Grades 2-3 $1.99
    Add To Cart
  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Guided Reading Short Reads & Lecturas Cortas Bundle Grade 6 (Levels T–Z)

    Guided Reading Short Reads & Lecturas Cortas Bundle Grade 6 (Levels T–Z)

    Buy both and save!

    The all-new Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas brings the same high-quality nonfiction of the original Guided Reading Short Reads to both Spanish and English-speaking learners. Short informational texts in numerous text types will build content area knowledge and domain-specific vocabulary in both English and Spanish!

    Title list:
    • 589043 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Grade 6 — Levels T-Z (420 Spanish cards)
    • 581202 Guided Reading Short Reads Grade 6 — Levels T-Z (420 English cards)

    $1,545.00 You save: 36%
    Instructional Program | Grade 6
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Guided Reading Short Reads & Lecturas Cortas Bundle Grade 6 (Levels T–Z)
    Grade 6 $1,545.00
    Add To Cart
Privacy Policy




Here's something interesting from