The last unicorn actually exists, though it’s not quite what you would expect. However, much like the classic animated film suggests, it is on the verge of extinction.
The creature is actually called the saola, an antelope-like animal with a pair of elongated horns tapered together. From the side, the horns appear like a single entity, much like the fabled horse of medieval European lore. Of course, the kind you probably imagine is the one in the stories, a white horse-like beast with a single prominent horn growing perpendicular to its nose.
Unlike the classic unicorn we know, the saola has become the subject of William DeBuys’ latest book, titled The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures.
DeBuys tells us, according to the Huffington Post, all about the not-so-fabled creature.
“At best, the existing population of saola numbers between a few dozen and a few hundred, making it nearly as rare and hard to find as a unicorn. Even stranger, its disposition, except when the animal is directly threatened, appears to be as gentle as that of the unicorns of medieval European lore.”
So why is the saola so critically endangered? This is mostly due to poachers along the Laos-Vietnam border, and perhaps scientists looking to study it. The last known attempt to capture the saola happened in 1992, when Bill Robichaud, a no-nonsense field biologist, was able to apprehend one, which he called Martha. Martha was a chocolate brown color with splashes of white across her face and a black stripe along her fluffy tail. Much like all other attempts to capture the saola, Martha died quickly, in 1996.
The “Unicorn” DOES exist, and it’s about to go extinct http://t.co/ZaM3RzdFoR
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) April 6, 2015
The relatively short life span of the “last unicorn” has led local governments to make capturing one illegal, much like the creature of fable is considered impossible to capture.
It is estimated that fewer than 750 of the saola still exist in the Annamite Mountains, where it lives in relative seclusion, rarely showing its face where a camera can spot it.
William DeBuys’ book describes the search for the creature, as well as the drama among a crew which ends up desperate for food. Set in 2011 and accompanying Robichaud, he set out to see the saola in person, and the book leaves you wondering right up to the end whether they ever actually see the gentle beast.
The Last Unicorn is available on Amazon so you can find out for yourself.
[Image via Pix Good]