[caption id="attachment_73596" align="aligncenter" width="555"] There are perhaps only a few dozen saolas in the world, all in one mountain range that straddles Vietnam and Laos, according to the World Wildlife Fund. This female saola was spotted in Laos in 1996. William Robichaud[/caption]
Rare Sighting of "Asian Unicorn" in Vietnamese-Laotian Jungle
Deep in the jungles of Vietnam and Laos, a living saola or "Asian Unicorn" has been sighted for the first time since 1996.
"When our team first looked at the photos we couldn't believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for Southeast Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement," said Dr. Van Ngoc Thinh, country director for the WWF in Vietnam.
The curious species is a bovine or jungle dwelling cow if you will.
The saolas are mammals genetically related to the antelope, cow, and goat. Scientists first stumbled upon their existence in 1992 when their remains were found collected in the houses of some local hunters.
No saolas had been spotted living since 1996 until this year. Barney Long, the director for the Species Conservation Program, which is owned by the World Wild Life Fund, confirmed the sighting to ABC News.
The living saola was filmed by a device called a "camera trap" which is a recording device activated by an infrared sensor. Saolas are considered to be an "extremely endangered" species with as few as 36 and as many as 100 thought to exist.
However, the figure could be challenged given there was no visible proof the saolas were still in existence. The sighing on camera will now improve efforts to protect the only known wilderness where the beasts are known to exist. The jungle in that part of Laos and Vietnam is very difficult for humans to cross.
[caption id="attachment_73600" align="aligncenter" width="634"] The creature has been spotted in a forest in Vietnam's central Annamite mountains, which are full of lush, moist vegetation for the animals to graze upon and hide in[/caption]
In late August 2010, a saola was captured by villagers in Laos but died in captivity before government conservationists could arrange for it to be released back into the wild. The carcass is being studied with the hope that it will advance scientific understanding of the saola.[
[caption id="attachment_73599" align="aligncenter" width="620"] The saola, also known as the 'Asian unicorn,' has distinctive long horns. One was recently photographed in Vietnam.
Photograph by: Sarah Bladen , WWF[/caption]
On The Web:
Asian Unicorn Spotted
Rare 'Asian unicorn' spotted in Vietnamese jungle for first time in 14 years