The central province of Quang Nam has decided to established a natural reserve for sao la, a mysterious twin-horned creature, near the border of Vietnam and Laos, which will be under management of its provincial Forestry Protection Department.

The reserve is located at 1,298m above sea level and characterised by narrow valleys and waterfalls which creates an ideal habitat for the sao la – a relative of antelopes and cattle and one of the world's rarest animals.

The establishment of the nature reserve will promote the conservation of lowland tropical forest ecosystems in the mountains, which contain many globally threatened species.

"The establishment of this new Sao La Nature 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 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Vietnam.

The sao la (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) was discovered in 1992 by a joint team of WWF and Vietnam Department of Forestry members who were conducting a survey.

Experts say only a dozen to several hundred of sao la exist in Vietnam.

They are threatened by illegal hunting with snares and dogs for its horns. None have survived in captivity.

In response to the alarming status of the species in the wild, WWF Viet Nam has worked with local authorities and agencies to promote the establishment of the Sao La Nature Reserve in Quang Nam and the Sao La Nature Reserve in Thua Thien Hue province, and to extend Bach Ma National Park./.