Rare Asian "Unicorn" Gets New Reserve in Vietnam

saola photo

Photo via wikimedia

The saola is an extremely rare relative of the ox that is found only in the forests of the Annamite Range of Vietnam and Laos. Discovered in 1992, scientists know very little about the elusive beast, which is known among locals as a "unicorn" in no small part because it is rarely seen, cannot survive in captivity, and has long, thin horns. But luckily for the saola, conservationists have set aside a reserve in hopes that the species will survive human encroachment on its habitat, and possibly hunting by locals. The Huffington Post reports "The land set aside last week in the central province of Quang Nam is rich in bio-diversity and home to an estimated 50 to 60 saolas, said Pham Thanh Lam, director of the Forest Bureau in the province. "If no reserve activities are launched now, the danger of the saolas' extinction is clear," he said."

Because so few of the animals have even been seen, not much is known about them. Last August, a saola was captured by villagers but died just days after being caught, well before scientists could arrange for it to be released into the wild.

However, as pointed out by TreeHugger Alex, that's not entirely a bad thing, since it allows researchers to study the remains and hopefully learn more about the species habits and biology. And that could help improve conservation efforts.

While no saola has ever been spotted in the wild by a biologist, the 39,000 acre reserve will help hopefully both the species and local people. With the new reserve will come jobs, since guards are needed to patrol the area. This is particularly important because it seems the species prefers living along edge zones of the forests.

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