Asian Unicorn: Must We Kill Rare Species in the Attempt to Study and Preserve Them – UPDATE 4/2011

Posted on September 18, 2010

Asian Unicorn - Discovered Laos. Died shortly after capture 2010

Do we really have to preserve the DNA of all endangered species?  Do we need to capture and cage them?  Each time we see the picture of a captured rare land or aquatic life form dragged up before a camera, it is dead, not alive or has died shortly thereafter.   Capturing these rare creatures really kills them as surely as if we had shot them ourselves.  Rare sightings of certain species should tell  us they they cannot tolerate contact with humans and that they have retreated to where they feel safe.

We knew the habitat of the Asian unicorn or Saola and had last had a sighting in 1999.  It would seem that the better part of valor would have been to have preserved that habitat rather than to have captured one of these unique creatures found in it.  The capture traumatized and killed it.  Was it worth it?  Even a fuzzy photo would  have sufficed.  In this instance, local villagers had captured it.  Was it for hope of reward?  Is this all we have taught indigenous peoples – satisfy our needs in return for money?

It is not clear as to why the villagers captured the animal, which they found in the forest held sacred by locals in the remote Xaychamphon District.

Before it died, it was photographed—the first record confirmed since 1999, when automatic camera traps took pictures of the species.

No biologist has ever seen a Saola in the wild, IUCN noted.

“The government of Lao PDR and WCS are to be commended for their rapid response and efforts to save this animal,” William Robichaud, Coordinator of the IUCN Saola Working Group said in a statement.

“We hope the information gained from the incident can be used to ensure that this is not the last Saola anyone has a chance to see.”

The Saola was first discovered by scientists in 1992 in Vietnam’s Vu Quang Nature Reserve near the border of Laos. [TheEpochTimes]

Anyone can see and feel the terror this animal must have experienced – head  bowed, its neck wrapped in rope.  We have preserved the carcass but at what cost?  We have perhaps killed the last one.  At the very least, we have interfered with the balance of nature.

Think of the many animals whose lives are shortened by captivity.  Think of the many who cannot live their lives fully such as a cheetah.  And we cannot always lead ours fully when we try to get too close to them.  Consider the lion who attacked his trainer in Las Vegas last week. Beyond a picture of one, no live lion should be at the MGM Grand. [Huffington Post]

Mankind needs to learn to take a step back and to leave some areas forever wild.  We have proved we can master the earth and that we can destroy it efficiently.  The tallest order now will be to pull back and “let nature take its course.”

UPDATE April, 2011

The Vietnamese have established a preserve for their “Asian Unicorn” whose range extends to Laos.  It is in the mountainous border region.  See the article at Live Science here  and hope that it results in the favorable outcome below – a healthy animal: