Rare saola dies in captivity

A A A

The first confirmed sighting in more than a decade of one of the rarest animals in the world, described as the "Asian unicorn", was revealed today.





But the saola died after villagers took it into captivity in a remote region of Laos, conservationists said.



The critically endangered mammal, which is found in the mountains of Vietnam and Laos, was first discovered in 1992.



The animal, which looks similar to the antelopes of North Africa, but is more closely related to wild cattle, is so elusive it has been likened to the unicorn, despite having two horns, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said.



It has never been seen by conservation experts in the wild and the last confirmed sighting was from camera traps in 1999.



The animal is listed as critically endangered, with just a few hundred thought to exist in the wild.



Conservationists said that with none in zoos and almost nothing known about how to keep them in captivity, if the species vanish in the wild they will be extinct.



The Laos government said villagers in the country's central province of Bolikhamxay captured the saola in late August and brought it back to their village.



When news of the capture reached the authorities a team was sent, advised by the IUCN and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), to examine and release the animal.



Unfortunately the adult male saola was weakened by several days in captivity and died shortly after the team reached the remote village. It was photographed while still alive.



IUCN saola working group coordinator William Robichaud said: "The government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic 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."



The provincial conservation unit of Bolikhamxay province said the animal's death was "unfortunate" but the incident confirmed an area where it was still found and the government would immediately strengthen conservation efforts there.



And Dr Pierre Comizzoli, a member of the IUCN saola working group, said study of the animal's carcass could yield some good from the incident.



"Our lack of knowledge of saola biology is a major constraint to efforts to conserve it.



"This can be a major step forward in understanding this remarkable and mysterious species.



"It's clear that further awareness-raising efforts about the special status of saola are needed but the saola doesn't have much time left.



"At best a few hundred survive, but it may be only a few dozen. The situation is critical."



It is not clear why the villagers, who reportedly found the animal in the village's sacred forest, took the saola into captivity, but the authorities are urging villages in the area not to capture them and to release any they might encounter.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve