115 new species found in Greater Mekong region

Bangkok: A crocodile lizard, a snail-eating turtle and a horseshoe bat are among the 115 new species discovered by scientists in Southeast Asia’s Mekong River region in 2016, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced on Tuesday.

Scientists from several research institutes discovered the new species, including 11 amphibians, two fish, 11 reptiles, 88 plants and three mammals in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, reports Efe news.

The new discoveries include two mole species and a coloured frog, found in northern Vietnam as well as a black and brown striped loach fish with a long body and bold stripes found in a Cambodian river.

These bring the total number of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians discovered in the region between 1997 and 2016 to 2,524.

“More than two new species a week and 2,500 in the past 20 years speaks to how incredibly important the Greater Mekong is to global biodiversity,” said Stuart Chapman, WWF Greater Mekong Regional Representative, in a statement.

“While the threats to the region are many, these discoveries give us hope that species from the tiger to the turtle will survive.”

Among the threats, Chapman pointed to coal mines and the construction of dams and roads that endanger “the survival of the natural landscapes”. and result in illegal animal trafficking that could make species disappear before they are even discovered.

The organisation also highlighted the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet, as a focus of illegal trading of protected species that decimates wildlife populations across the region.

According to WWF, the illegal wildlife trading extends from Asia to Africa due to greater demand generated by tourists from China and Vietnam who go to markets such as in Mong La, in Myanmar, or Boten, Laos, in search of products including ivory, rhino horn or body parts of tiger.

WWF called on the governments of the region to take action against poaching and put an end to the illegal wildlife markets that “operate with impunity in open view”.