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. fudgepickler

    bring on some more female orgasm pills!

    September 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. fudgepickler

    I thought that a unicorn has one horn only...this has two horns...shouldn't this be called a duocorn?

    September 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rustictesticles

    bring on some more female orgasm pills!

    September 18, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. crackedcherry

    get some female orgasm pills fer us!!!

    September 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. george

    thats just a dirty type of deer that amazes the english and australian people on animal planet

    September 18, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Josh

    Very sad, a rare and beautiful creature of this planet dies due to human ignorance. Was it worth it?

    September 18, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Arglebargle

    After reading some of these comments, it's no wonder civilization is headed downhill at a breakneck pace.

    September 18, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. goldendck

    World's Dumbest News Writer-unicorn captured..........CNN .. priceless

    September 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Wdesign

    Stupid villagers! What the hell were they going to do with it. Get with the times you tree swinging, bug eating, spear throwing ignoranuses! They should be prosecuted.

    September 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Uni?

    I wonder how many more clicks the article got when they decided to throw the word "unicorn" in there...

    September 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rock God


    September 19, 2010 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. JD

    I guess no more Candy Mountain for this guy. R.I.P Charlie.

    September 19, 2010 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. Claire

    that is not a unicorn

    September 19, 2010 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. the smart one in the family

    Double Unicorn. Full on!

    September 19, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  15. nature

    This just underscores the general destructive nature of humans. The potential is there to do good but the enviroment historically and at present is being destroyed both animals and plants alike. There is a theological element here, as we become more alienated from God we lose our stewadship with the enviroment

    September 19, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
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