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Devil Bat and Singing Frog Highlight New Species Discoveries in the Greater Mekong

Dams and Poaching are Major Threats to Newly Identified Species in WWF’s Extra Terrestrial Report

Washington, DC, December 17, 2012 – A new bat named after its devilish appearance, a subterranean blind fish, a ruby-eyed pit viper, and a frog that sings like a bird are among the 126 species in the Greater Mekong region newly identified by scientists in 2011, and highlighted in a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, Extra Terrestrial.

The report documents the work of dozens of scientists from some of the world’s most prestigious research institutions. In total, 82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 5 mammals are identified and described, along with recommendations on how to protect them and their habitats from poaching and unsustainable development and agriculture. The Greater Mekong region spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.

Among the species highlighted in the report is the aptly named Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, a diminutive but demonic-looking creature known only from Vietnam. Beelzebub’s bat, like two other tube-nosed bats discovered in 2011, depends on tropical forest for its survival and is especially vulnerable to deforestation. In just four decades, 30 percent of the Greater Mekong’s forests have disappeared.

“The Mekong region has a breathtaking array of biodiversity, but many of these new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats,” said Dr. Barney Long, WWF Manager of Asian Species Programs. “It’s vital that we increase our support for protected areas and greener economic development if we want these new species protected and to ensure that other intriguing species are discovered in years to come.”

A new ‘walking’ catfish species discovered in freshwater streams on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, can move across land using its pectoral fins to stay upright while it wiggles forward with snake-like movements. And a dazzling miniature fish (Boraras naevus), just 2cm in length, was found in southern Thailand and named after the large dark blotch on its golden body (naevus is Latin for blemish).

A pearly, rose-tinted fish from the carp family was found in the Xe Bangfai catchment, a Mekong River tributary in Central Laos that runs 7km underground through limestone karst. The cave-dwelling Bangana musaei is totally blind and was immediately assessed as vulnerable due to its restricted range.

The Mekong River supports around 850 fish species and the world’s most intensive inland fishery. Laos’ determination to construct the Xayaburi dam on the mainstream of the Mekong River is a significant threat to the Mekong’s extraordinary biodiversity and the productivity of this lifeline through Southeast Asia that supports the livelihoods of over 60 million people.

“The Mekong River supports levels of aquatic biodiversity second only to the Amazon River,” said Nick Cox, Manager of WWF Greater Mekong’s Species Program. “The Xayaburi dam would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signaling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered.”

A new species of tree frog discovered in the high-altitude forests of northern Vietnam has a complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. While most male frogs attract females with repetitive croaks, Quang’s tree frog spins a new tune each time. No two calls are the same, and each individual mixes clicks, whistles and chirps in a unique order.

A staggering array of 21 reptiles was also newly discovered in 2011, including the ruby-eyed green pit viper in forests near Ho Chi Minh City. The elusive pygmy python has not been found again despite repeated surveys, so little is known of its ecology, distribution or threats. However, the 1.5 meter-long python is likely at risk from threats faced by other pythons, including habitat loss, and illegal hunting for meat, skins, and the exotic pet trade.

“Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of many species across Southeast Asia,” added Cox. “To tackle this threat, WWF and TRAFFIC launched a global campaign this year to increase law enforcement, impose strict deterrents and reduce demand for endangered species products.”

Since 1997, an incredible 1,710 new species have been newly described by science in the Greater Mekong.

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NOTE: For photos please download at http://www.mediafire.com/?yuyyzel67af4d and for captions and credits for the photos go to the docs folder at the mediafire website.

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