Elusive 'Asian Unicorn' Caught on Camera in Remote Area of Vietnam

female saola

A rare antelope-like creature called a saola — and nicknamed the ‘Asian Unicorn’ for its two long sharp horns (that may look like one horn from the right angle)has been captured on film for the first time in 15 years.

The critically endangered animal is native to Southeast Asia and was last first discovered by scientists on an expedition in 1992. At the time, it was the first large size mammal new to science discovered in nearly 50 years.

The animal was photographed this past September by a “camera trap” (see below) set up in the Central Annamite Mountain region of Vietnam by Vietnamese wildlife officials and the  World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The photo was only recently acquired by Reuters.

saola caught with camera trap

The critically endangered saola (“Asian unicorn”) captured on camera, Vietnam, September, 2013 (photo: Reuters/WWF-Vietnam, handout via Reuters)

The saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is considered the “holy grail” for conservationists in this area of the world and the news of this recent spotting has generated a good deal of excitement. It’s capture on film raises hope for the recovery of the species, although its habitat — like so many around the world — faces many challenges — mostly from hunters. But efforts have been underway since 2010 to remove snare traps  ( intended for deer and civets, not saolas); to date, some 30,00 traps and hundreds of illegal hunting camps have been destroyed.

In a press statement, wildlife official Van Ngoc commented:

“Confirmation of the presence of the saola in this area is a testament to the dedicated and tireless efforts of these forest guards.”

The saola is actually closely related to a type of wild cattle, but more closely resembles an antelope. It’s long, sharp, thin horns can grow up to four feet (1.2 meters) in length.

The secretive animal was last seen in 1999 but had not been observed in Vietnam since 1998. A saola was captured in Laos by villager in 2010, but unfortunately, the animal died shortly afterwards.

It is believed that no more than a few hundred of the animals exist in the wild. Camera traps are one invaluable method for helping to track the animals and estimate their numbers. The Saola is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN

Some source material for this post came from the Live Science article ‘Rarely Seen ‘Asian Unicorn’ Caught on Camera‘ (via Yahoo News)

Top photo: female saola captured in 1996 (source)

image – http://news.yahoo.com/rarely-seen-asian-unicorn-caught-camera-171513191.html




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