What can we learn from The Last Unicorn?

Saola, Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Silviculture

Here at IFAW we save animals, lots of animals.

But unicorns?

I recently read William deBuys’ The Last Unicorn, a book about his search to find the extremely rare deer-like mammal called the saola that is believed to inhabit small mountain areas of Vietnam and Laos. (While not really one-horned creatures, if you were lucky enough to see a saola from a profile view – their two horns may appear as one – thus their unicorn nickname.)

Dr. deBuys, a nature writer and conservationist, and field biologist Bill Robichaud went trekking in Laos to find out whether or not this rare creature actually existed. It makes me wonder what other animals are hiding in the wilderness or have disappeared without a trace.

Dr. deBuys’ story is both inspirational and discouraging at the same time. He and his team never did find a saola, but they did find the effects of deforestation and globalization and rampant poaching, which may have led to the disappearance of the last unicorn.

I joined deBuys on air this week for a one-hour program on NPR’s On Point, a radio talk show produced out of Boston by WBUR.

Guest host Jane Clayson spoke with us about conservation on both a large and small scale. I spoke about wildlife crime and ivory destruction, the myth of conservation hunting, and the work we do in community development and poaching prevention, including our recent tenBoma initiative. One caller asked about why there weren’t programs like the Peace Corps to specifically help communities protect wildlife. It struck a chord as I am a Peace Corps alum myself.

One thing that was clear from both perspectives is that poaching and wildlife trade are pervasive and if we don’t get a handle on them now, more animals like tigers and elephants will dwindle to only a few individuals like the saola.

Take a listen: 

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