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. Cory Schwing

    About as rare as a Republican woman who gives head.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cory Schwing

    Did Jesus put this one on the ark? Where has it been.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      I don't even know where to start.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nancys friend

    How evolution can BE TRUE? If evolution all random than how can it make people so smart as me and Nancy. Don't answer the question because you can't do it. It is obveeous that CHRISTIANS WERE NOT EVOLVE FROM ANIMALS but maybe some of these LIBERAL COMMENTORS were, hahaha!!! So like Nancys words ~~~ZIP IT evolution lovers! Evolution can't make higher type mindz like xtians have!

    September 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Posh-Kenneth

      @Nancys friend: yes and clearly evolution and education skipped right over you. Freakin moron.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      I really don't know where to start.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancys friend

      I know where you can start. THE BOOK CALLED BIBLE. Start on page 1 and believe it or your pretty much worthless. All your argument come from liberal conspiracy if you don't read THE BIBLE.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Q

      Also Nancys friend had much more points than u people so ZIP IT. For your education: That is how you win arguements, you make more points. Hello? Okay liberals?

      September 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      OK, Nancys friend (if that's really your name), let's break it down.

      "How evolution can BE TRUE?" - Not sure if this is a question or a statement, but reading the rest of your post(s) and assuming that the punctuation is correct, we'll go with the former. You probably just forgot the verb. And reading your English does make me question Darwin, but I'm going to go with the fact that it is a newer science that has a lot more evidence than yours and is less based

      "If evolution all random than how can it make people so smart as me and Nancy." Compelling argument, and I am starting to notice that you also have a keen disregard for verbs in your form of English (or American, as you may refer to it). As for how evolution can make you so smart, I really wish evolution wasn't so effective, but I would bet if we looked at your ancestors, we'd notice a pattern.

      "It is obveeous that CHRISTIANS WERE NOT EVOLVE FROM ANIMALS but maybe some of these LIBERAL COMMENTORS were, hahaha!!!" - Wow, that one hurts. Not due to any type of accuracy, but rather of an inaccuracy of "type". At least I hope you spell better in your thoughts than in your typing. But really, you are not even including humans in the group known as "animals". Do you think that women are still carved from bone and men still shaped in clay? This is really a talk you should have had with your parents somewhere along the way. But here goes, when a man and a woman love each other very much...

      "ZIP IT" - Indeed, Nancys friend, Indeed.

      "Evolution can't make higher type mindz like xtians have!" - I'm going to give you this one, because I am not really sure what the frick you are trying to say here. But I am going to agree.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cory Schwing


    September 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lerprakawn

    Maybe this is just proof of how bad the Asians are at math.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. EPA

    Hey there's the rarest animal in the world, lets capture it and let it die!!!!!

    September 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RM

    ah, but it was delicious.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Playgurl89

    And how did this turn into a discussion of religion? I swear religion = root of all evil lol...

    September 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Playgurl89

    @Goodstuff A lot of young children were on their knees before "the lord" and look where that got them.


    I'd rather devote my beliefs to beings that don't endorse pedophilia.

    Like Optimus Prime.

    Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahhahahahhahahahha OMG that was awesome!!!

    September 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John Q

    Christians couldn't come from evolution. We's way to smart! Like Nancy said ~~ ZIP IT liberals!

    September 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Floria sigmundi

    I wouldn't go so far to say a unicorn I mean it has two antlers not a single horn, plus it looks like a large dog mixed with a walrus of some sort

    Check out this video on YouTube:

    September 17, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • erky

      What happens, so does he shoot him? What crappy made for TV movie is this?

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

      Hope it's the guy that capture the Saola

      September 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Phil

    So are we no longer interested in talking about the saola?

    September 17, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fubarchaeo

    There is a big difference between people showing you an option and being fearful of their punishment of your decisions. Personally, I blame neither God or anybody else if I make a bad decision. I blame myself. I am not my dad, and I am not my mom. And in fact, I pretty much raised myself for some time. I think true moral intelligence is something developed and learned from experience, not something dictated, or indoctrinated.

    But I digress. This is about an animal that died because of other people's bad decisions. Hopefully they have learned from from that experience.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Phil

    Q: How many evolutionists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: None. They believe it'll change itself in time.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John Q

    I know my religion is right cuz God told me and nothing you people say will ever change my mind so ZIP IT.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
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