Asian Unicorn Spotted in Vietnam After a Decade


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The Asian unicorn is a mysterious real-life creature that received the title “unicorn” partly due to the animal’s ability to remain unseen. Spotting a living Asian unicorn has been considered to be almost impossible, making the occurrence nearly as expected as seeing the unicorns of mythical tales. However, these creatures are real, and they are linked to cattle though having similar appearance to antelope. The unique characteristic of this wild animal relates to the two parallel horns that protrude between the animal’s ears.

Dr. Barney Long, the Director of Species Protection and Asian Species Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund, has worked in Vietnam where the saola (Vietnam unicorn) live. He has actively fought for the protection and conservation of the species for fourteen years; however, he has never actually seen a living saola. Sure, he has seen carcasses of the creatures and even spoken with eye witnesses who claim to have caught glimpses of the elusive beings; however, Dr. Long has not directly observed one himself. There had been no confirmed sightings in the wild for greater than a decade with the last sighting being in Laos during 1999.

On November 1st at 1:03 a.m., Dr. Long received an email from research partners in Vietnam that changed everything. The email very simply stated, "Confirm the identification to show I'm not going mad.”

The elusive creature had finally been spotted again as a result of camera traps set in September. Dr. Long explained his excitement at receiving such a message regardless of the hour to, "I jumped up and down with joy. I literally downloaded it and was running around the hotel, not the most professional way of reacting, but it was a huge amount of relief," he said.

According to Dang Dinh Nguyen, who is the Director of Quang Nam’s Saola Nature Reserve, “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.”

Dr. Barney Long seconded the awe-inspired sentiments. “This is a monumental find and comes at a critical moment in time for saola conservation. It’s a huge reward for decades of tireless work by the provincial government who established the saola reserve, community snare removal teams and WWF biologists. Now it’s time to double our efforts to recover this iconic species.”

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