WWF Reveals Discovery of 126 New Species in SE Asia’s Greater Mekong Region

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By Erik Pineda | December 19, 2012 4:57 PM EST

A walking catfish, a devilish-looking bat, a singing frog, a ruby-eyed pit viper and a two-legged lizard are among the newly-discovered species in the Greater Mekong region that the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has listed on its new report titled Extra Terrestrial.

The WWF report, which was completed in late 2011, counted a total of 126 freshly detected species from the Southeast Asian region that straddles Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

In a report by Cosmos Magazine, the WWF find was broken down in the following: 5 mammals, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians, 13 fish and 82 plants.

The Mekong area's rich level of biodiversity normally thrives on its rainforest and the 4,350-km-long Mekong River that cuts through the four-nation territory. But that is hardly the case now, according to WWF Species Programme Manager Nick Cox.

"The good news is new discoveries. The bad news is that it is getting harder and harder in the world of conservation and environmental sustainability," Mr Cox told Agence France Presse (AFP).

"While the 2011 discoveries affirm the Mekong as a region of astonishing biodiversity, many new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats," he added.

Wildlife experts blamed deforestation as one of the serious threats that could drive many species in the area to near-extinction, with the WWF report pointing to the alarming data that over the last 40 years some 30 per cent of Greater Mekong's forested areas have largely disappeared.

The species in the area are equally imperilled by increasing cases of poaching, noted Mr Cox in the report.

"Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of many species across Southeast Asia," the WWF official was reported by AFP as saying.

But considered by WWF as the most likely to disturb the biodiversity balance of the Greater Mekong area is man's rapid development of the region, foremost of which is the planned construction of the Xayaburi dam on the main stream of the Mekong River.

When realised, this project "would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signalling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered," Mr Cox argued.

The Xayaburi dam, he added, would negatively impact on Mekong River's fishing stocks over the long-term, which paints a dire prospect to the estimated 60 million people that draw their livelihoods from the stream.

Mr Cox could only hope that governments in the region, which included China, would come up with schemes of "nature conservation . . . and developing greener economies (to protect) these new species . . . and keep alive the hope of finding other intriguing species in years to come."

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