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 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 4:37 PM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
For the first time, scientists have created human lungs in a lab -- an exciting step forward in regenerative medicine.
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 7:55 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
Tiny rocket-shaped metal particles might one day take a wild ride inside your body.
updated 3:11 PM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
Ten years ago on New Year's Eve, Dennis Aabo Sorensen was launching fireworks when a defective rocket blew up. He was rushed to the hospital, and his left hand was amputated.
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 12:43 PM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
There is a light show in the ocean that you can't see, but many fish can. There's quite a display of neon greens, reds, and oranges going on underneath the surface.
updated 7:53 PM EST, Sat December 14, 2013
One trillionth of a second after the Big Bang is the timeframe that physicist Joe Incandela knows well.
updated 11:57 AM EST, Tue November 26, 2013
Scientists have uncovered archaeological evidence of when Buddha's monumentally influential life occurred.
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 8:15 AM EST, Sun November 3, 2013
Four top environmental scientists raised the stakes Sunday in their fight to reverse climate change and save the planet.
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
A new study suggests that a group of marine species with claw-like structures emerging from their heads were related to spiders and scorpions.
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Sat October 19, 2013
The most complete early human skull has been found in the European country Georgia.
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