The saola, also known as the “Asian unicorn,” is likely fast disappearing, conservationists warned in an announcement today, and they say there could be only 200, or even as few as just several dozen of the animals left on the planet.
The saola is a small, horned animal that resembles a strange antelope hybrid, but is more closely related to a type of wild cow. Vietnamese scientists first identified the new species only through the bizarre, horned skulls that villagers living near the animal’s range had collected.
Stark markings on the face, long, graceful horns and a tufted tail lend to the animal’s mystique. But according to Barney Long, an Asian species expert for the conservation organization WWF, the creature got its mythical moniker more for its habits than its looks.
“It’s so rare to see that it would almost be like seeing a unicorn,” Long told OurAmazingPlanet in 2011, when a protected area for saola was created in Vietnam.
These secretive ungulates wander the steamy green forests of South Asia’s Annamite Mountains, where poaching is rampant. Although saola themselves are not prized in the wildlife trade or for their meat, many of their neighbors are. And although the rare creatures are caught and killed by snares, scientists have never observed them in the wild. The rare saola that has been captured alive has quickly died.
Conservationists said it’s encouraging that saola are not a direct target for poachers, and offered hope that the critically endangered animals can be saved.
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Source: Yahoo News
Image: Animal SOS!