A unicorn in Vietnam? No, this isn’t a hoax or a unicorn sighting akin to the Loch Ness monster sightings. It’s a spotting of the rare Asian unicorn.
The Vietnam unicorn is actually an endangered species called the twin-horned saola. Unlike a rhino, which some people believe is the basis for the unicorn myth, this creature is more like an antelope and is said to be extremely elusive.
Van Ngoc Thinh, Vietnam’s country director, said finding the Asian unicorn in Vietnam was extremely surprising:
“When our team first looked at the photos we couldn’t believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for South East Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement. This is a breathtaking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species.”
The discovery of the species was first made in 1992, but it was not captured on camera again until 1999. In 2010, some villagers captured a live saola, but it died before researchers could get there in time. And that’s the last time the Asian unicorn was spotted in the wild until now. Because of the rarity of sighting, conservationists believe there may only be several dozen to a few hundred saola surviving in the wild.
What’s worse, an endangered species of rhionceros was poached to death, with the last Javan rhino found dead from a gunshot wound in 2010. So forest guards in Vietnam have been removing tens of thousands of snares and destroying hundreds of poacher camps.
At this point, you’re probably why the Vietnam saola are called unicorns. After all, their spindled horns come in a pair, not single horn thrusting its way out of the forehead like the European unicorns of yore. The reason is tied entirely to their rarity. Since humans rarely see the saola at all, and it was the first mammal species discovered anew in over 50 years, it earned the nickname of Asian unicorn.