Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Photo grabs world's rarest mammal

A soala, one of the world's rarest and most threatened mammals on earth, pictured in 1993 (AP/WWF)
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Scientists have managed to snap a photo of one of earth's rarest mammals, the saola, which had not been seen in 15 years.

The antelope-like, long-horned ox appears to walk through dense foliage at the edge of the automatic camera's range in the image taken in Vietnam in September.

Conservation group WWF said: "This is a breathtaking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species."

Twenty years since they were first known to science, the elusive mammals remain hard to detect and little is known about them.

At best, no more than few hundred, and maybe only a few dozen, live in the remote, dense forests along Vietnam's border with Laos.

The animal was discovered in 1992 when a joint team of WWF and Vietnam's forest control agency found a skull with unusual horns in a hunter's home. The find proved to be the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years.

Two saola were captured in central Vietnam in 1993 but died in captivity after several months.

The last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998, according to Dang Dinh Nguyen, director of a saola nature reserve in Vietnam's central province of Quang Nam.

In the area where the saola was photographed, WWF has recruited forest guards locally to remove snares and battle illegal hunting, the greatest threat to saolas' survival, the statement said. The snares had been set largely to catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are a delicacy in Vietnam.

-AP

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