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Unicorn Caught by Camera Trap

First confirmed sighting in the wild in the 21st century

Wild Saola

Wild Saola – click image to see more Saola photos at arkive.org

No, that headline isn’t bait-and-switch. It’s true: last week, a World Wildlife Fund camera trap in Vietnam captured an image no one expected to see: a wild saola, aka “Asian unicorn,” so named because saola have long, slender horns that grow up to 52 centimeters long.

The species was first discovered in Vietnam in 1992 and has only been photographed in the wild four times since then. Like the mythic unicorn, little is known about their ecology and habits, and no one knows how many saola there are left in the wild. The last confirmed sighting by conservationists was from a camera trap in 1999, when the saola population was estimated to be about 1000. A decade later, conservationists estimated that the population had decreased to 200. Today saola are considered one of the most endangered species on the planet.

Although saola are occasionally hunted as trophies, the biggest threats to their survival are habitat loss and snares set for other animals used in traditional medicine. The good news is that the World Wildlife Fund has been working with the Vietnamese government to remove snares and monitor saola habitat. According to the WWF, since 2011 over 30,000 snares have been removed by locally recruited forest guard patrols.

According to Dr. Barney Long, Director, Species Conservation Program at WWF, “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 that established the saola reserve, community snare removal teams and WWF biologists. Now it’s time to double our efforts to recover this iconic species.”

Wild Saola

WWF camera trap photo of wild saola

  • randyman5775

    Your headline is quite deceiving. A unicorn is a horse with 1 horn. A soala has 2 horns, so no matter how long the horns grow, that doesn’t make it a unicorn. It seems to me that your premise is as much a fantasy as a unicorn!