Vietnam sets up second sao la natural reserve

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Thua Thien Hue authorities have announced the establishment of a sao la Natural Reserve in the Truong Son Mountains near the border with Laos in an effort to conserve the rare mammal species that has dwindled to less than 250 individuals worldwide.

The new Natural Reserve creates a vast continuous protected area along the mountains, linking Vietnam's first sao la Natural Reserve in Quang Nam and Bach Ma National Park with the Xe Sap National Reserve in Laos.

According to the conservation NGO WWF, the Thua Thien Hue Natural Reserve is more than 15.500 hectares (38.300 acres).

It gives a protection to the sao la, as well as many other rare fauna and flora, with separate areas for strict protection and eco system recovery.

The Natural Reserve overlaps the natural old-growth forest in the Truong Son Mountains, considered one of the richest areas for biodiversity on the planet.

Indochina's elusive sao la (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is listed as critically endangered by the conservation organization IUCN.

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 global population of sao la is thought to be around 250 individuals at most. No animal of this species has survived in captivity.

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