A rare Asian “Unicorn” has died in captivity after a sighting, the first such sighting of one of the world’s rarest species in more than 10 years. The Asian “Unicorn” is actually a saola, an animal so rare it has been compared to a unicorn despite having two horns instead of just one.
According to the Laos government, villagers in the province Bolikhamxay captured a saola and brought it back to the village in August, where it died before officials could intervene. Almost immediately upon hearing word of the sighting and capture, the Bolikhamxay Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office sent a team to examine and release the animal but didn’t arrive before it died. However, photographs were taken while the animal was 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.”
The saola is listed as “critically endangered,” and estimates presume that only a few hundred exist. Extinction is a serious threat, because there are currently no saolas in zoos and little is known about how to keep them captive.
The MSNBC article goes on to detail how the most recent sighting is indeed a learning experience, noting that the current saola is the first carcass to be preserved. But it should also be a learning experience for villagers in the area, who should contact the proper authorities before taking matters into their own hands.
Nobody is blaming the villagers for reacting immediately, but had the proper people been contacted its possible researchers would have a living saola to study rather than a dead one.