One of the rarest animals in the world has been sighted for the first time in more than 10 years, according to the government of Laos. Sightings of the animal, called a saola, are so rare that the creature has been likened to a unicorn, despite the fact that it has two horns, not one.
The Lao government announced that in late August villagers in the central province of Bolikhamxay captured a saola, which looks similar to an antelope, and brought it back to their village.
When news of the saolaís capture reached Lao authorities, the Bolikhamxay Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office immediately sent a team, advised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to examine the saola and release it. Unfortunately, the animal, an adult male, weakened by the ordeal of several days in captivity, died shortly after. The animal was photographed while still alive.
"The government of Lao PDR and WCS are to be commended for their rapid response and efforts to save this animal. We hope the information gained from the incident can be used to ensure that this is not the last saola anyone has a chance to see," said William Robichaud, coordinator of the IUCN Saola Working Group.
This is the first confirmed record of the species since two photographs of wild saola were taken in Laos by automatic camera traps in 1999.
The Saola was first discovered in 1992, in Vietnam near the countryís border with Laos. With its long horns and white facial markings, the saola resembles the antelope of North Africa, but is more closely related to wild cattle.
Saola are secretive and so seldom seen (no biologist has ever reported spotting one in the wild) that they have been likened to mythical unicorns. Some speculate that a Chinese myth of a magical unicorn, the qilin, may have been derived from familiarity with saola in prehistoric China, although the species does not occur there today, if it ever did.
The saola is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and probably no more than a few hundred exist. With none in zoos and almost nothing known about how to maintain them in captivity, extinction of saola in the wild would mean its extinction everywhere.
"The death of this saola is unfortunate," the Provincial Conservation Unit of Bolikhamxay Province said in a statement. "But at least it confirms an area where it still occurs and the government will immediately move to strengthen conservation efforts there."
It is not clear why the villagers took the saola into captivity. After its death, the technical team took the carcass to Pakxan, the provincial capital, where biologists from the WCS and the Lao government preserved all parts for analysis, future study and reference. This is the first saola specimen to be so completely preserved.
"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," said 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."
The Lao Department of Forestry and provincial and district authorities are urging villagers in the area not to capture saola.
Amid Russia tensions, US nuclear bombers to conduct military drills in Sweden 2015-05-28 4:23
The Pentagon is planning to send nuclear bombers to Sweden for a military exercise next month amid growing tensions with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
The warplanes, the B-52 Stratofortress, will participate in a naval exercise on June 13, Swedish general Karl Engelbrektson said.
They are set to fly from the United States nonstop and simulate a drop of anti-ship mines near ...
'Netanyahu to US: Give 50% more money, we'll shut up' 2015-05-28 4:55
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asking the United States to provide Tel Aviv 50 percent more money for weapons and ‚Äúwe‚Äôll shut up‚ÄĚ on Iran nuclear talks, an author and investigative journalist in Philadelphia says.
Dave Lindorff made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV on Wednesday while commenting on a report which says Israel has asked Washington ...
Britain To Outlaw "Hate" and "Extremism" 2015-05-28 1:53
UK home secretary Theresa May : "But what we're talking about is they key values that underline our society and are being undermined by the extremists. Values like democracy, a belief in democracy, a belief in the rule of law. A belief in tolerance ...eh... for other people. Equality and acceptance for other people's faith and religions.
One of the great ...
Killer robots will leave humans 'utterly defenceless' warns professor 2015-05-28 1:08
Robots, called LAWS ‚Äď lethal autonomous weapons systems ‚Äď will be able to kill without human intervention.
Killer robots which are being developed by the US military ‚Äėwill leave humans utterly defenceless‚Äė, an academic has warned.
Two programmes commissioned by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are seeking to create drones which can track and kill targets even when ...
Here's how much corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill 2015-05-28 1:21
Critics of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership are unlikely to be silenced by an analysis of the flood of money it took to push the pact over its latest hurdle.
A decade in the making, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is reaching its climax and as Congress hotly debates the biggest trade deal in a generation, its backers have turned on the ...