Rare Asian ’Unicorn’ Sighted, Dies in Captivity
2010-09-20 0:00

From: LiveScience.com


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 saola’s 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.


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy




Asian "unicorn"

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 country’s 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."

Teachable moment

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.

Article from: livescience.com



Related Articles
Mysterious ’bearded’ antelope photographed
12,000 endangered saiga antelope found dead in Kazakhstan
China Eats Crow Over Faked Photo Of Rare Antelope
The Natural History of Unicorns
Single-horned ’Unicorn’ deer is found in Italy
Saola


Latest News from our Front Page

Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
2016-04-28 20:10
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North. The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night. A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked. The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
2016-04-28 20:48
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough. Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield. Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
2016-04-27 2:23
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July. The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
2016-04-27 2:09
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown. The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent. He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
2016-04-25 23:10
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are. ... London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race. Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event. Marathon ...
More News »