VIENTIANE, Laos, Sept. 16 (UPI) — An extremely rare animal dubbed the “unicorn of Asia” — even though it has two horns — has been caught by villagers in Laos, wildlife officials said.
The antelope-like Saola has never been encountered by biologists in the wild and there are none in captivity, the BBC reported. The animal was only discovered in the forests of Southeast Asia in 1992, and just a few photographs of it exist, taken by local villagers or automatic camera traps.
The Saola — Pseudoryx nghetinhensis — inhabits the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam, where villagers from Laos’ central province of Bolikhamxay caught an adult male in August.
The villagers took a few photos of the odd-looking creature and notified authorities.
By the time a team from the Bolikhamxay Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office reached the remote location, the Saola was dead.
“The death of this Saola is unfortunate,” a provincial conservation spokesman said. “But at least it confirms an area where it still occurs and the government will immediately move to strengthen conservation efforts there.”
The Saola resembles the antelopes of North Africa but is believed to be more closely related to wild cattle.
Some locals call the animal a unicorn, despite the two horns. Only a handful have been sighted, mainly by local villagers.
“At best a few hundred survive, but it may be only a few dozen. The situation is critical,” Pierre Comizzoli, a veterinarian with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said.
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