Sao la natural reserve set up in Quang Nam

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The Quang Nam's People Committee Thursday announced the establishment of a sao la Natural Reserve in Truong Son (Annamite) Mountains along the border with Laos.

Indochina's elusive sao la (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), a critically endangered mammal species, has a renewed hope of survival with the establishment of the dedicated nature reserve, international conservation organization WWF said.

The establishment of the reserve shows "a strong commitment by the Vietnamese government and Quang Nam Province in the conservation of this highly threatened endemic species," said Tran Minh Hien, country director of WWF Vietnam.

"This new reserve will create a biodiversity corridor connecting the east of Vietnam to the western border of Xe Sap National Park in Laos," she said.

The sao la, described as a primitive member of the bovine family which includes cattle, sheep and antelopes, was discovered in 1992 by a joint WWF and Vietnam Department of Forestry survey. It was the eighth new mammal species discovered last century in the forests of central Vietnam.

Threatened by illegal hunting with snares and dogs for its horns, the current population of sao la is thought to be a few hundred at most. No animal of this species has survived in captivity.

The reserve is located in an area where the highest point is 1,298 meters characterized by narrow valleys and waterfalls that create an ideal habitat for the sao la.

The establishment of the reserve will promote the conservation of lowland tropical forest ecosystems in the Truong Son Mountains, which contain many globally threatened species, the WWF statement said.

It will "not only help improve [sao la's] chances of survival but also have long term value in developing and maintaining the area's biodiversity," said Dang Dinh Nguyen, director of management board of the sao la protected area in Quang Nam.

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