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First Asian 'Unicorn' Sighting in Last Decade Confirmed

The Saola, a rarely-seen animal which lives in the Annamite Mountains bordering Laos and Vietnam, was captured by Laotian villagers in late August. The animal subsequently died in captivity.

Saola in captivity shortly before it died Bolikhamxay Provincial Conservation Unit

There are no Saolas living in zoos. The animal, which bears a resemblance to the antelope, is listed as an endangered species and no more than a few hundred are thought to exist in the world.

Discovered only in 1992, the Saola, with its long horns and white facial markings, is often referred to as the `Asian unicorn.'

A release put out by a network of scientists and conservationists reporting the finding said it was still unclear why the villagers took the Saola back with them. Laotian authorities said they have since cautioned the locals not to attempt to capture Saola.

The World Wildlife Fund says that the animals have become victimized by the illegal trade in wildlife. The saola are especially coveted for their horns which have become prized trophies by hunters.

Saola conservation in Quang Nam province

In its statement, the provincial conservation unit of Bolikhamxay province said the s death of the saola was "unfortunate" but added that government planned to immediately beef up its conservation efforts in the area where the animalwas captured.

Dr Pierre Comizzoli, a veterinarian working with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said scientific examination of the saola's carcass could yet yield some good. "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," he said.

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