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. Ben

    "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."

    I love this. This kind of quote is what's wrong with the media. An animal, that probably never lived in China and was likely never seen by the Chinese is the basis of one of their most widely used mythical images. Why...because we needed to make the story more interesting, so we made it up. Also, the Mountain Gorillas of Africa are the likely basis of Bigfoot

    September 17, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • RosaFranklin

      Isn't it possible that Chinese travelers who crossed the border into Laos sometimes might have seen it and brought back stories? I'm not saying I accept that this animal is the basis of the Chinese unicorn, but it's certainly possible.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JohnnyOh

    When they found it, was Obama riding it into the liberal sunset to save the world? lol

    September 17, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      You really crack yourself up.

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

      I didn't know the sunset could be liberal. That must make the conservative sunset blood red.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patrice

    First of all this story has nothing to do with God or religion, how about the fact that we as humans insist on controlling everthing. They should have let this poor animal live his life maybe the species would die off maybe it woudn't but one thing is for sure that animal would be alive if humans would have left it the heck alone.

    September 17, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Lucy


      September 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santosh


      that u r only historian that proved rrrrrrrrrrrrrresssssssssucrecccccccctttttion !!!

      September 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sally

      Survival of the fittest....

      September 17, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jrh

    That isn't rare, I've seen it stuffed in the middle of the Cabelas exhibit

    September 17, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • SmarterHuman

      You clearly don't know your species. You probably saw an "African Bongo," which itself is quite rare. Only dumb hunters would shoot rare animals, then stuff them to admire themselves (the hunter, not the animal.)

      September 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BBQ Man

    A rare specimen indeed, I ate one once and it tasted like chicken,

    September 17, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Did you eat it well done or (wait for it)... rare?

      September 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • jovanny!

      hahahahahaha! toms insensitive but very funny hahahahaha that made my day

      September 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joshua

    jesus is a myth Christina, religion is for the weak who need a reason to be alive, religion is also the best way to make money.....

    September 17, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Planet Earth

    Lucy says Jesus is real because somebody wrote about him.
    I guess that makes the Smurfs real also.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      so my dream of geting it on with Smurfette could someday be a reality? I'll take that over zombie Jesus any day.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lerprakawn

      rotflmao!!! Great comment!

      September 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rob

    Funny how an article about an endangered antelope turns into a discusson about religon.....

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

      Seems like with every article on this website someone has to bring religion into it. I mean seriously it's an article about endangered species not the pope.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope

      There is only one Pope. I would say that is rare.

      September 19, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tinsoldier

    Amazing. Evolutionist believe that man came from pixie (star) dust and that over billions of years, billions upon billions of little “miracles” of change (that no one has ever seen or recorded) gradually created all we see and know. And they call Christianity a pipe dream! They obviously have access to much better drugs than the Christian community.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      No, moron, what we have access to that you don't is called a function brain.

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

      Any species that evolves intelligence will find that it lives in an environment perfectly suited to it. For every reaction that happens, there are billions that don't You think the universe is a miracle because you (or anyone else, for that matter) were not around to see all of "God's" failures. The universe is not as perfect as you think it is, only much, much bigger.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      nobody has ever seen or recorded evolution? maybe you should learn to think independently and stop believing the bs that your religion is force feeding you. There is far more evidence supporting my arguement than your crazy religion.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmarterHuman

      Actually, moron, those "miracles of change" are reproducible and demonstrable in a laboratory setting. You should go to college and learn something. It would prevent you from sounding so stupid. Start with Drosophila experiments for your new curriculum.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. RayRay

    Christina: Jesus him self is a mystical creature and Gods overall, are not real!

    September 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    Well said Rob. Looks like a bunch of people that just need to vent about something completely unrelated.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John

    Excuse me a unicorn has one horn. let's blame it's death on George Bush

    September 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • kite005

      Good idea

      September 17, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mark C

    Also, to the unbelievably ignorant OP, the myth of the unicorn COMES FROM THE BIBLE.

    "He maketh them [the cedars of Lebanon] also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn."–Psalms 29:6

    "God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn."–Numbers 23:22

    "Save me from the lion's mouth; for thou hast heard me from the horns of unicorns."–Psalms 22:21

    "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth."–Deuteronomy 33:17

    "Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?"–Job 39:9-12
    People like Christina are the source of unending amusement. From the King James version of the Bible:

    "But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of the unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil."–Psalms 92:10

    "And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with their bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness."–Isaiah 34:7

    September 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikinAZ

      Mark C – please don't waste the space on this scientific article by injecting nonsense. We do not need quotes from a fictional book on this story – it is about science...which is based in fact.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • bonair

      King James version states unicorn, most other versions state ox or wild ox.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brooke

      HEY MARK C ya moron, the bible isn't the end all be all. There was plenty of crap happening BEFORE christianity came around of which this MYTH came before. I mean, Christianity stole everything they are from Paganism (yule, etc.). Christianity is like wearing a gaudy Pagan suit and topping it off with a facist, oppressive hat. Try picking up a history book, there were things BEFORE some stupid men wrote the bible, which is as fictional as any crappy teen vampire book you can pick up at Barnes and Noble for five bucks (only longer and more boring).

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

      @Brooke – you pathetic imbecile, I was commenting because Christine had said that people only believed in unicorns because they didn't know about Jesus. You know what - why don't you do the gene pool a gigantic favor and blow the dog sh1t that passes for your brains out now?

      September 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dave

    maybe these animals are rare because people take them from their habitat and let them die in captivity. why did they capture it? Just let it be. Oh, and for the christians, do you also believe a man in a red suit comes down the chimney on december 25th?

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

      This Christian does. Some man dressed up in a red suit got stuck in a chimney several years ago I believe in Texas on December 25th. He survived with only bruises and slight dehydration from the ordeal.

      September 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff

    How does a group of intelligent people, after reading this article, go from Jesus to Satan to George Bush?
    Didn't you miss someone in-between the last two? Dick Cheney? Hello!

    Seriously, folks. Stop acting like teabaggers and just read articles like this at face value. There is no political or religious subtext in the article.

    Oh, and do yourselves and the entire country a favor: shun Sarah Palin.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikinAZ

      Agreed – While I enjoyed the movie and was inspired by the simple effort he gave and the amazing life Forrest Gump had, I do not want his real life long lost in bred sister having any influence on our country's future. Just say no to Sarah Palin Gump.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • SantaHimself

      Sarah Palin get out of my life!!!!!!!!! If I hold my breath long enough will she go away finally?

      September 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Actually, the Laotian villagers were trying to capture her and, oops, got a saola instead..

      September 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
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