One of the most secretive creatures on Earth — the saola — has been photographed in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years.
Scientists first discovered the saola in 1992 in Vietnam near the country’s border with Laos. It was the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years. But since its discovery, the elusive creature has rarely been seen in the wild, earning it the nickname the “Asian unicorn” (even though it has two long horns instead of one).
A lone saola was documented this past September by a camera trap set up in the Central Annamite Mountains by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Vietnamese wildlife officials.
The last time a saola was spotted in the wild was 1999, but it hasn’t been seen in Vietnam since 1998. In 2010, villagers in the Laos province of Bolikhamxay caught a saola, but the animal died shortly after capture.
WWF conservationists say they are working with Vietnamese partners to protect saolas from illegal hunting.
Scientists suspect that no more than a few hundred or a few dozen saola exist in the wild, but they have not been able to come up with a precise population estimate. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.