Skip to main content

Rare 'Asian unicorn' caught on camera

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 9:10 AM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
A Saola is caught on camera for the first time in 15 years on September 7 in a forest in Vietnam. The species was discovered in 1992, and at most a few hundred -- and as few as a couple dozen -- of the animals are thought to exist. Because of its rarity and elusiveness, the saola is dubbed the "Asian unicorn." They are recognized by two parallel horns with sharp ends, which can reach 20 inches in length and are found on both males and females. A Saola is caught on camera for the first time in 15 years on September 7 in a forest in Vietnam. The species was discovered in 1992, and at most a few hundred -- and as few as a couple dozen -- of the animals are thought to exist. Because of its rarity and elusiveness, the saola is dubbed the "Asian unicorn." They are recognized by two parallel horns with sharp ends, which can reach 20 inches in length and are found on both males and females.
HIDE CAPTION
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
Strange and endangered species
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Saola caught on forest camera in Vietnam
  • At most, only a few hundred saola thought to exist
  • Species was first discovered in 1992

(CNN) -- Environmentalists in Vietnam were ebullient this week after remote cameras in a forest reserve snapped pictures of a live saola, one of the rarest large mammals on Earth.

At most a few hundred -- and as few as a couple dozen -- of the animals are thought to exist. Because of that rarity and its elusiveness, the saola is dubbed the "Asian unicorn." That moniker comes despite the fact it has two closely spaced parallel horns.

"These are the most important wild animal photographs taken in Asia, and perhaps the world, in at least the past decade," said William Robichaud, coordinator of the Saola Working Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission, in a World Wildlife Fund press release.

Scientists discover new species in Australian rainforest

This Sept. 7, 2013 photo released by WWF, shows the Saola in a forest in Vietnam.
This Sept. 7, 2013 photo released by WWF, shows the Saola in a forest in Vietnam.

"This is an historic moment in Vietnam's efforts to protect our extraordinary biodiversity," Dang Dinh Nguyen, deputy head of the country's Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, said in the release.

The picture of the animal was taken in September in a reserve in the Central Annamite Mountains and announced by the WWF on Tuesday.

441 species discovered in Amazon since 2010

Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF-Vietnam's country director, called the picture "a breath-taking discovery."

"When our team first looked at the photos we couldn't believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for Southeast Asian conservationists," Van said in a press release.

The saola, which is a relative of cattle but looks like an antelope, was first discovered in 1992 in forests along the Vietnam-Laos border. A WWF survey team found a skull of the animal in a hunter's home. In Vietnam, a saola was last seen in the wild in 1998. In Laos, a remote camera snapped a picture of one in the wild in 1999. And in 2010, Laotian villagers captured a saola that died before word got to researchers.

Olinguito: The newest rare mammal species

There are no saola in captivity.

Environmentalists said Wednesday the pictures show that efforts to save the saola are working.

"Saola are caught in wire snares set by hunters to catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are largely destined for the lucrative illegal wildlife trade," Van said in the WWF release. "Since 2011, forest guard patrols ... have removed more than 30,000 snares from this critical saola habitat and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters' camps."

New legless lizards found in California

'Chewbacca bat,' other bizarre species found in national park

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Science news
updated 3:34 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Nichelle Nichols has spent her whole life going where no one has gone before, and at 81 she's still as sassy and straight-talking as you'd expect from an interstellar explorer.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province.
updated 8:10 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
As fans of "Grey's Anatomy," "ER" and any other hospital-based show can tell you, emergency-room doctors are fighting against time.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Ask 100 robotics scientists why they're inspired to create modern-day automatons and you may get 100 different answers.
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
From the air, the Namibian desert looks like it has a bad case of chicken pox.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
The trend for nature-inspired designs has spread across industries from crab-style deep-sea vessels to insect-inspired buildings.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Sun May 25, 2014
Consider it the taxonomist's equivalent of a People magazine's Most Beautiful List.
updated 11:32 AM EDT, Fri May 9, 2014
For the first time, scientists have shown it is possible to alter the biological alphabet and still have a living organism that passes on the genetic information.
updated 7:48 AM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
Do we really want to go the route of "Jurassic Park"?
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
Catch a train from the sky! Perhaps in the future, the high-rise superstructures could help revolutionize the way we travel.
updated 10:58 AM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
In a nondescript hotel ballroom last month at the South by Southwest Interactive festival, Andras Forgacs offered a rare glimpse at the sci-fi future of food.
updated 10:12 AM EDT, Thu March 20, 2014
For a Tyrannosaurus rex looking for a snack, nothing might have tasted quite like the "chicken from hell."
updated 6:29 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
Everyone is familiar with Tyrannosaurus rex, but humanity is only now meeting its much smaller Arctic cousin.
updated 12:12 PM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
At about 33 feet long, weighing 4 to 5 tons and baring large blade-shaped teeth, the dinosaur Torvosaurus gurneyi was a formidable creature.
updated 6:43 AM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
This Pachyrhinosaurus can go to the head of its class.
updated 8:04 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Science is still trying to work out how exactly we reason through moral problems, and how we judge others on the morality of their actions. But patterns are emerging.
updated 7:06 PM EST, Thu February 27, 2014
A promising way to stop a deadly disease, or an uncomfortable step toward what one leading ethicist called eugenics?
updated 8:07 PM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Seattle paleontologists safely removed the largest fossilized mammoth tusk discovered in the region from a construction site.
updated 6:13 AM EDT, Tue April 23, 2013
A mysterious, circular structure, with a diameter greater than the length of a Boeing 747 jet, has been discovered submerged about 30 feet underneath the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
updated 5:25 PM EST, Fri January 17, 2014
Every corner of the planet offers some sort of natural peculiarity with an explanation that makes us wish we'd studied harder in junior high Earth science class.
updated 8:20 AM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Deep in a remote, hot, dry patch of northwestern Australia lies one of the earliest detectable signs of life on the planet, tracing back nearly 3.5 billion years, scientists say.
updated 3:10 PM EDT, Wed September 4, 2013
We leave genetic traces of ourselves wherever we go -- in a strand of hair left on the subway or in saliva on the side of a glass at a cafe.
ADVERTISEMENT