An endangered Asian Unicorn, the “Saola”, has been spotted in Vietnam. Saola is the earth's rarest antelope. This is the first such instance in 15 years. It has led to a wave of excitement among biologists and animal conservationists.
The twin-horned Saola, also called the Asian Unicorn, was thought to have died out. Yet a rare sighting of the animal has raised hopes among those who fight for animal rights. Saola is one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on earth. Since it was such a rarity, it had been called the Asian Unicorn. The animal resembled an antelope.
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The WWF captured the Saola on video camera in the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam. Conservationists had a hard time convincing themselves they were seeing this almost extinct animal. Hopes of rearing it back into a surviving species were revived thanks to this discovery.
WWF-Vietnam’s Country Director, Dr. Van Ngoc Thinh said, “When our team first looked at the photos we couldn’t believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for South-east Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement. This is a breath-taking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species.”
Saolas have two backward bending horns on their heads which are very sharp. The first one in over a decade was captured but died in captivity. This second one is cause for celebration indeed. It means that the hard work done to conserve species has not gone to waste.
Dang Dinh Nguyen, Deputy Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department and Director of Quang Nam’s Saola Nature Reserve, said, “In Vietnam, the last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998. This is an historic moment in Vietnam’s efforts to protect our extraordinary biodiversity, and provides powerful evidence of the effectiveness of conservation efforts in critical saola habitat.”
Southeast Asia is a gene pool of animal diversity. Over 126 new species were discovered last year in the Greater Mekong region alone. Vietnam is the place where rare and exotic species have been found. The yin-yang frog and Beelzebub tube-nosed bat are just two examples. Yet Vietnam is engaged in a battle to save its flora and fauna. Poachers are the biggest nuisance and they get in the way of saving endangered species.
Watch video of the elusive Saola below.