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. Snu Snu

    My money is on it tasting like chicken. Anyone else?

    September 17, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Help here

    Hey guys, will you visit SaveStan.ORG a friend of mine with 4 young babies is fighting for his life…… thanks

    September 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jasari

    So this Saola is one of the rarest animals in the world and these people have to capture it and let it die? Why? I'm embarrassed to be a human. We're destroying this planet.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chang

    Looks like good eating to me....

    September 17, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. LaDiva

    Would love for these comments to stay in order instead of all around the place...

    September 17, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Posh-Kenneth

      @LaDiva- Then stop replying to them and adding fuel to the fire. You're just an attention wh0r3. I know because... i can smell my own.

      September 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cliff Vegas

    Okay, so they found the second cousin of the Unicorn – I guess that counts. Now, if pigs fly that'll mean that Palin actually has a chance to win a bid for the WH. Couldn't help myself, just had to bring it back to politics.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. erricol

    That's makes better soup than the antelope for the chinese.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Goodstuff

    I'm going to invoke Godwin's Law.

    "Hitler was a Christian too".

    And the debate is over.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Unicorn my ah_ole

    I thought unicorns were white with golden horns? Don't forget about it being able to walk on a rainbow... this rare and beautiful animal doesn't even look like a horse. It's a real shame it had to die for curiousity's sake.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike R

    ...and it died. Great.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JoePhilly

    HOLY CRAP! Do you realize the implications of a unicorn with two horns? That giant red devil from the movie Legend had to capture TWO unicorns to get two horns so he could ensure that dawn never comes and the sun stays black. This is a total shortcut. Wayyyy to go, Asia

    September 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Posh-Kenneth

      @JoePhilly- LMFAO its so true. glad someone else had this thought.

      September 17, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Walrus

    Wonder what it tastes like?

    September 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. U can Reed GuD

    You defending people is "heroic", just as us criticizing them makes us "losers". Either way, they posted the original comment and opened themselves up for commentary on both sides. If you disagree you obviously haven't been around the internet (or public commentary in this case) for long.

    Going out to enjoy the sunshine after 3 days down here in the "basement" now. Bye!

    September 17, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JoeOrwell

    THEY KILLED IT!?!? wow that really doesnt make me happy. only 11 have been known to exist and they kill one!

    September 17, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JoePhilly


    September 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
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