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by February 5, 2014
THE endangered saola, one of the world's rarest mammals, is not well acquainted with the world's scientists. They didn't know it existed until 1992, and by then it was nearly post-date. Yet this mysterious antelope still roams, if only deep in the Annamite range of north-eastern Vietnam and Laos. In August, in Central Laos, a lone specimen was spotted—for the first time anywhere since 1999—and then promptly caged by local residents. The creature soon died in captivity. The saola has been called Asia's “unicorn”, though there is at least one good reason not use that term; “bicorn” is more like it. But like the unicorn of European myth, fewer than 750 saolas are thought to exist in the wild today. Their horns have become trophies for the few hunters who have chanced upon them. The wildlife trade has claimed a share of this improbable species, the Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, as they get caught in snares intended for more numerous animals, like the wild boar or deer. Poorly regulated deforestation projects are to blame for the rest.
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