September 17th, 2010
10:08 AM ET

Rare Asian 'unicorn' captured

The rarity of the saola, which resembles an African antelope, gives it mythical status.

Scientists have confirmed the first sighting in more than a decade of one of the world’s rarest animals - the saola, sometimes called Asia’s “unicorn.”

 The animal was captured by villagers in Laos in August, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The villagers took the saola back to their village in Bolikhamxay province and Laotian conservation authorities sent a team to check on the animal. The creature, likely weakened from its time in captivity, died shortly after that team arrived.

"The death of this Saola is unfortunate,” the Provincial Conservation Unit of Bolikhamxay province said in the IUCN statement. “But at least it confirms an area where it still occurs and the government will immediately move to strengthen conservation efforts there."

This was the first confirmed sighting of a saola since 1999, when remotely triggered cameras took images of one in Laos.

First discovered in 1992, the saola is considered critically endangered, its numbers so few that biologists have never witnessed one in the wild. Fewer than a few hundred saolas are believed to roam the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam. There are none in captivity.

The rarity of the saola, which resembles an African antelope but it more closely related genetically to wild cattle, gives it mythical status in some circles, according to the IUCN. The saola, although it has two horns, may be the basis of the mythical Chinese unicorn, the qilin, although it is unknown if saolas ever existed in China.

The carcass of the saola recovered in the Laotian village was being preserved for study, officials said.

"Study of the carcass can yield some good from this unfortunate incident. Our lack of knowledge of Saola biology is a major constraint to efforts to conserve it,” says Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, a veterinarian with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and a member of the IUCN Saola Working Group. “This can be a major step forward in understanding this remarkable and mysterious species.”

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Filed under: Animals • Laos
soundoff (377 Responses)
  1. Anna

    I thought "uni" means "one". In this pic, it has two. It looks like a typical antelope to me. We have the Pronghorn all over the place. It's a protected animal here. You get fined if it hits YOU. They're not afraid to attack people in cars.

    September 17, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Terri

      The article read "The saola, although it has two horns, may be the basis of the mythical Chinese unicorn, the qilin, although it is unknown if saolas ever existed in China", they admitted it isn't the same.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • notoj

      See if I got his one straight. These animals are very rare, so the villagers took it back to village and it died. Not exactly the correct thing to do to an endangered species.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • nk

      Hey look an endangered species!
      Quick trap it so it will die in captivity!
      People make me sick.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosh

      fine : $1,000,000 for commenting on it !!!

      September 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      That's why it's so friggin rare....when was the last time you saw a 2 horned "uni"corn!?!?!?!

      September 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • U can Reed GuD

      "The saola, although it has two horns, may be the basis of the mythical Chinese unicorn, the qilin, although it is unknown if saolas ever existed in China."

      People should really read the article instead of just glancing at pictures and commenting.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      What a bunch of boneheads! Taking an animal that is endangered... holding it in captivity... which results in the animals death. Who's to say that wasn't the last one? Makes me want to slap 'em! How much more irresponsible can we be?

      September 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • geez

      "The saola, although it has two horns, may be the basis of the mythical Chinese unicorn, the qilin, although it is unknown if saolas ever existed in China." Who cares if the article says that? Its still a dumb name for a two horned animal... The comments wondering why it has that name are still valid.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • U can Reed GuD

      Actually, my name was a commentary on the postings of a good majority of people posting comments before reading articles. Also, I'm not married. Finally, really, misspelling so you can attempt to insult me? I'm going to go cry now... after laughing some more at the moronic comments!

      And no, I'm actually not a mean-spirited individual. It just gets old seeing the same dimwitted comments about this animal not being a "real" unicorn when the article clearly states that it is not one. Even the headline reads "unicorn" in quotes... come on people.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      That is one confused "uni"corn. It has 2 horns for Pete's Sake. It must have been teased to death on the play ground with the other unicorns. I bet they all used to laugh and call him names before he died. Poor unicorn. RIP Uni

      September 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIchael

      This animal looks similar to the Arabian Oryx which has the same horn structure. When viewed laterally the horns line up and look like a single one. That's why they call it the "Asian Unicorn." The same is said about the Arabian Oryx which was extinct in the wild until the SSP captive breeding program through zoos re-introduced them into the wild.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Come on now U Can...Stop trying to justify your misdirected anger. You're a typical angry idiot surfing the web looking for people to make grammatical or spelling errors so you can berate them and pound your intellectual chest.....The internet is full of morons like you, so there's no need to explain yourself. IDIOT.....

      September 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean

      The unicorn is in quotes. I take it to mean that they likened the animal to a unicorn because no one has ever seen one in person before.

      September 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • U can Reed GuD

      I didn't even mention a grammatical or spelling error in my initial post... They didn't read the article. Simple as that. If you would have read what I wrote instead of trying to instigate further then you might have noticed that.

      I LOVE UNICORNS!

      September 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Guys, I was being a smart@ss. Jeez I didn't think I had to spell that out.

      September 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • JANICE H

      It is not a unicorn, uni – means 1 that poor animal roped to the ground, it is obvious they are a bunch of idots

      September 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bruce

      Well even though it has two horns, I would imagine that someone drawing it in ancient times would have drawn it in profile, hence the one horn look...I guess; I don't really know...

      September 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • U can Reed GuD

      @Anna

      Maybe I should have created a new comment instead of replying to yours. I was not criticizing one specific person, but rather the good majority of the people who posted similar comments to yours and were obviously not kidding about it.

      The only person who got angry here seems to be Patrick who is doing the name-calling directed at those of us who called out people for not reading. My apologies if you may have taken my original comment as directed at you specifically. That simply wasn't the case.. however, I do not retract my comment.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sar

      It was mistakenly called a unicorn because a profile view shows only one horn.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Yes, Patrick needs some Anger management sessions.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      And yet another imbecile "Dave" decides he wants to join the fray of stupid comments.....Just the simple fact that you agree w/ anything "Ucan" said shows your lack of intellect. You sided w/ the only moron in the thread idiot. "Ucan you're so ridiculously over the top dumb, I'm not going to dignify you're posts w/ any more replies. You serioulsy are stupid, my friend. You came on here attacking people for making silly innocent comments, and then you try to back track saying you did nothing. Keep flaming. Morons like you have to thrive on the internet because in person you'd cower at most people's feet.

      September 17, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim armstrong

      1. where is "here"? 2. Pronghorn are NOT antelope, they are a unique species, unrelated to anelope. 3. protected in as far as there is a hunting season for them in the west, (I have harvested them in Colorado), but they are NOT protected as in an endangered species, just managed. I have yet to see an agressive one when confronted by cars or people on foot, they run at about 40-50 miles an hour and have the sight range of the hubble telescope. Cattlemen generallyhate them, cll them range maggots because they allegedly eat up grazing plants meant for their cattle,even thought their diet is far from cattlelike. (funny item, they must be white, they can't jump worth a hoot, they have to either go find a place and go under or around a fence, even cattle guards panic them. I saw one jump about 4 inches once but onlyafter he tried to scoot under that fence. nuff said

      September 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • U can Reed GuD

      You're right. I lose. Have a great weekend!

      September 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • ikantraed

      The lure of candy mountain strikes again.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • MartyKorn

      Can it shoot rainbow beams from them? //www.scoreface.com

      September 18, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • tastes like...

      Candy mountain Charlie... Candy MOUNTAIN

      September 18, 2010 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
    • todd stevens

      I'm waiting for the Mc Bicorn Burger.

      They are always made rare.

      September 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • What4

      What stupid idiot made that rule up?

      September 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKC

      @notogo – First, most of the world has never been taught any concept related to conservationism. Unfortunately, too many who do know about it don't care.

      September 18, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • 804life

      If you actually READ what they wrote. VILLAGERS in LAOS took it back to their VILLAGE!!!!

      im sorry their not starbucks drinking apple product using new age hippies that want to save all the animals on the earth. their VILLAGERS!!!!!!!!!! this was probably dinner for their tribe until some dumb white person stumbled upon it while trying to film their VILLAGE for the discovery channel.

      September 19, 2010 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Math R Fun

    Um, Unicorn means One horn. That thing has 2 horns.

    OMG IT'S A DOUBLE UNICORN! What does it mean? Double unicorn all the way!

    September 17, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • cat

      HAHAHA!

      September 17, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      Thanks for the laugh of the day! It's a stunning creature and I hope the authorities work with the locals to leave them alone. We have deer in our area and when they are taken captive they die easily from "capture myopathy", a kind of irreversible shock. (Literally dropping dead from fright.) It's difficult to treat one that is injured- they go from bad to worse. Since you're "Math R Fun", if a unicycle has one wheel, a bicycle has 2, a tricycle has 3 then how many wheels does a popsicle have...

      September 17, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • cat

      Mom – It had 1, but it popped 🙂

      September 17, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Terri

      Math that was awesome...

      September 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • cw

      When you look at it from the side, it looks to have only 1 horn. That is how the legend started.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosh

      "DI-HORN" OR "BI-HORN"

      where is corn ???

      September 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • JM

      Hahaha!!! Nicely done.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • U can Reed GuD

      You saved your comment with the double unicorn line... well played sir.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIchael

      This animal looks similar to the Arabian Oryx which has the same horn structure. When viewed laterally the horns line up and look like a single one. That's why they call it the "Asian Unicorn." The same is said about the Arabian Oryx which was extinct in the wild until the SSP captive breeding program through zoos re-introduced them into the wild.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Math R Fun

      Thank you, thank you. I read it. I just wanted to beat all the real, "it has 2 horns," people to the punch.

      Shame it had to die. I would have rather never heard of it and it still be alive.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose

      so intense

      September 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colin

      hahahahahahahahahaha

      September 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Work-a-holic

    I AGREE ANNA!! FIRST THING I THOUGHT WHEN I SEEN IT WAS ANTELOPE!! THIS JUST CONFIRMS YOU NEVER KNOW WHATS OUT THERE!! OH BUDDY ANYBODY READY TO FIND BIGFOOT?!?!?!?

    September 17, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Grammar R Fun

      When you "seen it" .... Really?

      September 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • PLZEN CZECH

      Maybe you should try finding the elusive "caps lock".

      I say that totally in jest 😉 I wish you well.

      Too bad about the poor critter...

      September 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. repsycler

    Obviously a lot of people can't count to two. I hope they stuff it and add it to the other exhibits of extinct creatures humanity has caused. And here's an example of another one gone.

    September 17, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • kaly

      your absolutely right repsycler i agree with you!

      September 17, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • flier

      I'm sorry, i must have missed something in the article...how has the activity of man endangered this species? Is it because the villagers captured this one?

      September 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      we made them extinct? no one knew they exsisted until 1992...they live in the mountains where I'm sure not too many humans inhabit, please read before spewing self righteous babble

      September 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      gotta love some good barbeque

      September 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • What!?

      Of course we contributdd to their decline, habitat loss, contaminants in what habitat they have left, etc.... They've lived there, probably for centuries, and are dying off now. Come on people, use your heads

      September 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • hONGRY

      I'm right there with you Sam. They were likened to cattle, after all.

      No one knew they existed until 1992. No one knew how they tasted until 2010.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      I would love to go over there and hunt one of these!!! It would be alot of fun to drop one of them with my crossbow!!! I wonder what they taste like?

      September 17, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • tastes like...

      Tastes like chicken.. O'course.. a one legged chicken.

      September 18, 2010 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      The article doesn't mention it but human activity is directly responsible for the decline in the populations. It isn't that the species was completely unknown to humans until 1992... it is more that it was unknown to zoologists and hadn't been identified as a distinct species and cataloged until the Ministry of Forestry of Vietnam conducted a biodiversity survey. Poachers hunt it for its meat and for its horns... and now, sadly, by groups like this community likely was (since they didn't immediately butcher the animal and try to sell the meat and other products on the black market) who are trying to trap an animal believing that they could sell it to researchers. The species is very shy and doesn't seem to deal well with contact with humans.. so far all of the ones captured and put into zoos in Laos have all died quickly.

      September 18, 2010 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. repsycler

    Another one bites the dust.

    September 17, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      clone it

      September 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ANewThought

    Goodstuff.... that's actually pretty awesome! I never thought of it that way. I suppose its kind of sad now I have a more fond view Christianity now....

    September 17, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Dusty Rhodes

      No need to go that far, i doubt that christianity had anything to do with its' existence

      September 17, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chase

    It so Ironic conservationist.

    "Scientists have confirmed the first sighting in more than a decade of one of the world’s rarest animals" yet "The animal was captured by villagers in Laos in August, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature."

    And then died >< Leave the damn thing alone. I realize there are definite benefits to Conservation establishments. Helping extinct animals procreate. But, at least examine the situation before getting your pitchforks and ropes and caging an animal. Observe its daily activity, maybe it already has a mate and babies. You probably just killed that species by capturing its only living male or female.

    September 17, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Kari Allen

      Chase–the scientists DIDN'T capture it, the villagers did. No where does it say that the conservationists promoted its capture.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • smarty pants

      Extinct animals can't procreate because, well they're extinct as in DEAD.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobby

      get a life

      September 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • opera

      I absolutely agree with you

      September 19, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paulie

    They ought to be able to clone one and cross it with an antelope or something

    September 17, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    What a surprise, humans capture an animal to satisfy nothing but curiosity and then it dies. Why couldn't we just leave the darn thing alone?

    September 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Gusatrick

      I agree with Andrew. Why must the human race continue to screw up everything we touch? If it is a rarity.....LEAVE IT ALONE.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • pig

      Couldn't agree more. So Sad we can be..

      September 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Konstantin

      If it survived, they would have indeed cloned it, in order to populate those "hunting farms" in Texas (where else...) where rich and... rather insensitive folk are willing to fork over thousands of dollars to hold the wildlife of their choice in an enclosed area, drive around with trucks and shoot them in absolute safety and confort...

      September 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      I totally agree with Andrew...yet again the SELFISH human race that we are...we have to torture a poor helpless animal until it dies of fright all because we have to satisfy our "curiosity" or rather our selfishness to having what WE want..we don't care what anything else wants (this poor creature)..just leave it ALONE! Why can't that be done?

      September 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I agree. I am just sick about this article.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DB

    No need to rail against the conservationists. The villagers could have killed the animal and have eaten it. Is that conservation for you?

    September 17, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jan

    It is sad that the villagers were not educated in conservation of these animals. They probably thought its mythical status would bring luck and prosperity to their poor village. It isn't like they have the knowledge provided by computers and web access at such a remote location. I do hope conservationists educate the people in that country about the tenuous balance necessary for the life of this species.

    September 17, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete

      So the fact that they killed it, does that bring them bad luck instead of good?

      September 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JazzyNate

      Even if the local residents are 'educated about the value of this animal', perhaps it is simply time for this species to become extinct.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • ging

      Jan,

      I agree with you. Someone need to educate those people. I believe they have no idea what they captured. I was born in Laos.

      September 19, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. unicorn??

    that has two horns so therfore its not a unicorn wow how dumb are people

    September 17, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • mominwa

      Yeah, duh! "Uni" means "one". This thing has 2 horns, so automatically disqualified.

      September 17, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Megan

      Smarter than the person asking questions without reading?

      September 17, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Maybe you should read the entire article........

      September 17, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. giveupurcrap

    Jesus is a myth, as far as you know. There's no proof of anything he supposedly did.

    September 17, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Lucy

      Jesus Christ is definitely NOT a myth. There are historian outside the Christian circle that wrote about Him, recorded His miracles, etc. Also, the Resurrection has been proven, if you would want to do some research. So say what you will but don't rewrite history with your ignorance.

      September 17, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      1) "Unicorn" is used to describe the allure and mystery behind the creature – not the literal meaning of a mystical 1 horned horse
      2) Religion has nothing to do with the interpretation of unicorn in the modern day. and only Christians who believe in their faith so much that they become blinded by it, make comments like Christina did
      3) It's a true shame when i think of these villagers, how they were probably excited to catch an animal they've rarely seen. Actually... it's kinda like the Romans crucifying Jesus. Wait, maybe this IS an article about religion.
      4) All animals need to be unadorned, and respected instead. Respect life and it will respect you back.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howie

      Lucy – are you really that stupid? The resurrection has been proven? Really? I must have missed Jerry Springer that day.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmarterHuman

      @Lucy,

      Did they use that "Flintstone Granite Miracle Meter" to record those "miracles?"

      September 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosh

      @Lucy

      She was the only historian !!

      September 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • smarty pants

      Jesus was a person who did exist – this is a corroborated fact since there are many historians and reports from those times – Jewish, Roman, and what would become Christian – who reported about Jesus. He was seen as a political activist at the time. What cannot be proven are that miracles were performed or there was a resurrection – this is where your faith comes in Lucy. If it was proven you would not need faith.

      September 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lerprakawn

      I must have been asleep during class discussion of the "proof" that the resurrection happened. How ironic that I would do that 12 years in a row...

      September 17, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      @Lucy, there is no scientific proof he did any of the things the "Bible" says he did, or that he even existed.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ryan

    Looks like a Long Horn with some speed (horns straight back instead of curved to the side). Never seen one of those. BOOMER!

    September 17, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  15. Amadai

    The animal was once thought be be a possible source for the unicorn myth because when seen from the side it appears to have only one horn.

    September 17, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Watto

      Absolutely right! That has long been the theory in Europe, too. And since certain long horn animals tend to live in remote areas people haven't seen them enough to contradict the assumption that only one horn was seen.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
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