‘Asian Unicorn’ spotted in remote Vietnam

Christian Science Monitor
13 November 2013

In a jubilant moment for conservationists, the so-called “Asian Unicorn” was seen on a camera in one of Vietnam’s remote provinces, the WWF said on Wednesday. The sighting of the saola, a doppelgänger for an antelope, suggests that efforts to rescue Vietnam’s endangered animals are making progress, the agency said.

The saola (pronounced sow-la) is a slim bovine that lives just in the Annamite Mountains ribbing Vietnam and Laos. It has two sharp, parallel horns that can grow up to 20 inches in length; in Vietnamese, saola means “spindle horns.” Humans so seldom see these horned animals that saola are often called “Asian unicorns.”

The saola was not found until 1992, when a joint team from Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and WWF surveyed Vu Quang, the forested, species-rich region near the Vietnam-Laos border. Even then, the team found not the animal itself, but just a skull, displayed in a hunter’s home. It was less of a unicorn, and more a ghost of a unicorn. It was the first large mammal new to science in over 50 years, the WWF said.

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