Over 100 new species discovered in Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong region

(WWF) – A crocodile lizard that is the inspiration behind an up-and-coming comic strip, a snail-eating turtle discovered in a bustling food market in Thailand, and a horseshoe bat that could fit right into a Star Wars movie…these are just three of the 115 new species discovered by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2016.

These, together with more than a hundred others such as a beautifully coloured frog found in the limestone karst mountains of Vietnam and two mole species from Cambodia, bring the total number of new species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians discovered in the region, between 1997 and 2016, to an astonishing 2,524.

More than 2,500 new species in 20 years

New Species
Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis – Image source WWF

“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 who heads WWF’s work in the Greater Mekong. “While the threats to the region are many, these discoveries give us hope that species from the tiger to the turtle will survive.”

The discovery of the new species of 11 amphibians, two fish, 11 reptiles, 88 plants and three mammals in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam comes at a critical time. The Greater Mekong region is under intense pressure from unsustainable development of mines, roads and dams, threatening the survival of the natural landscapes that make it so unique.

In addition, poaching and the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade are also decimating wildlife populations in the region, especially in the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet. The scale of wildlife crime is such that sadly, species could be lost before they are even discovered.

Stopping illegal wildlife trade essential 

“The species in the Greater Mekong are like works of art, and deserve protection from unscrupulous collectors who are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species,” added Chapman.

WWF has launched an ambitious project to disrupt illegal wildlife trade through the closure of the biggest markets in the Greater Mekong region. Working with partners and across borders, WWF aims to help significantly reduce illegal trade in key threatened species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos by promoting species protection legislation, supporting effective transboundary cooperation and improving law enforcement effectiveness at key border crossings. Find out more about our work in the Greater Mekong region.

This report prepared by WWF

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