(CNN) - Environmentalists in Vietnam were ebullient this week after remote cameras in a forest reserve snapped pictures of a live saola, one of the rarest large mammals on Earth.
At most a few hundred -- and as few as a couple dozen -- of the animals are thought to exist. Because of that rarity and its elusiveness, the saola is dubbed the "Asian unicorn." That moniker comes despite the fact it has two closely spaced parallel horns.
"These are the most important wild animal photographs taken in Asia, and perhaps the world, in at least the past decade," said William Robichaud, coordinator of the Saola Working Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission, in a World Wildlife Fund press release.
"This is an historic moment in Vietnam's efforts to protect our extraordinary biodiversity," Dang Dinh Nguyen, deputy head of the country's Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, said in the release.
The picture of the animal was taken in September in a reserve in the Central Annamite Mountains and announced by the WWF on Tuesday.
Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF-Vietnam's country director, called the picture "a breath-taking discovery."
"When our team first looked at the photos we couldn't believe our eyes. Saola are the holy grail for Southeast Asian conservationists," Van said in a press release.
The saola, which is a relative of cattle but looks like an antelope, was first discovered in 1992 in forests along the Vietnam-Laos border. A WWF survey team found a skull of the animal in a hunter's home. In Vietnam, a saola was last seen in the wild in 1998. In Laos, a remote camera snapped a picture of one in the wild in 1999. And in 2010, Laotian villagers captured a saola that died before word got to researchers.
There are no saola in captivity.
Environmentalists said Wednesday the pictures show that efforts to save the saola are working.
"Saola are caught in wire snares set by hunters to catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are largely destined for the lucrative illegal wildlife trade," Van said in the WWF release. "Since 2011, forest guard patrols ... have removed more than 30,000 snares from this critical saola habitat and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters' camps."
Saturday, April 12 2014 6:07 AM EDT2014-04-12 10:07:09 GMT
An incredible photo snapped Saturday at the iconic Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore is going viral. A mother humpback whale and her calf were cruising just offshore when a set rolled in. J.T. Gray of NorthMore >
An incredible photo snapped Saturday at the iconic Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore is going viral.More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 2:06 PM EDT2014-04-16 18:06:48 GMT
An ailing Miley Cyrus has canceled her concert Tuesday night at Sprint Center.The notice came a matter of hours before she was scheduled to go on stage.A concert promoter tells KCTV5 that Cyrus is in theMore >
An ailing Miley Cyrus remains in a Kansas City hospital and says she must cancel her St. Louis concert slated for Wednesday night. This comes after she unexpectedly canceled her Tuesday night concert in Kansas City. More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 4:45 PM EDT2014-04-16 20:45:47 GMT
Officials say at least one person is dead following a wreck at the Interstate 70 turnpike Wednesday afternoon.The crash was reported at eastbound I-70 and Interstate 635 about 12:30 p.m.Refresh this pageMore >
Officials say a woman was killed when she jumped from a moving vehicle on Interstate 70 on Wednesday afternoon.More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:44 AM EDT2014-04-16 14:44:38 GMT
Lisa Teachman is joining KCTV5 as a meteorologist and traffic reporter."I am so excited and thrilled to be working with the most accurate weather team in Kansas City," Teachman said. An on-air meteorologistMore >
Lisa Teachman is joining KCTV5 as a meteorologist and traffic reporter. She debuts on It's Your Morning next week. More >
Friday, April 11 2014 6:08 PM EDT2014-04-11 22:08:56 GMT
A year-long, multi-agency investigation resulted in the arrest of 28 people for charges ranging from murder to racketeering. Law enforcement officers from the Baton Rouge Police Department, East BatonMore >
A year-long, multi-agency investigation resulted in the indictment of 28 people for charges ranging from murder to racketeering.More >
Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:30 AM EDT2014-04-16 09:30:07 GMT
A Good Samaritan shot six times trying to stop a robbery says he never got a penny from a fund set up in his name. It's been a year and Yousaf Haroon still doesn't know how much was raised or where thatMore >
A Good Samaritan shot six times trying to stop a robbery says he never got a penny from a fund set up in his name, but he isn't bitter. More >