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Remarkable Species Discovered in Southeast Asia

Newly identified Greater Mekong species under threat from man-made pressures

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 from the Greater Mekong newly identified by scientists and highlighted in the WWF report, Extra Terrestrial. The report compiles the work of scientists from numerous institutions across the world. Since 1997, an incredible 1,710 new species were newly described to science in the Greater Mekong region, which includes Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos.

Amid the excitement of these discoveries is the grim reality that many species could disappear before they are ever recorded because of man-made pressures in the area. Habitat loss and illegal hunting for meat, decoration or purported medicinal qualities are just some of the threats to the region’s astonishing biodiversity. The terrifying drop in the number of wild tigers and the 2010 extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam are urgent reminders that species are being lost at an alarming rate due to human pressures.

If governments fail to invest in and value conservation this region’s treasure trove of biodiversity—and the countless benefits it offers to people—could be lost forever.

Newly Discovered Species of the Mekong 

  • Sweet singing frog

    Sweet singing frog (Gracixalus quangi)

    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. It was discovered in the high-altitude forests of northern Vietnam.

  • Ruby-eyed pit viper

    Ruby-eyed pit viper (Trimeresurus rubeus)

    This new species of snake called the ruby-eyed green pit viper was discovered in forests near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

  • Thick-spiked Coelogyne Orchid

    Thick-spiked Coelogyne Orchid (Coelogyne pachystachya)

    Despite its thorny name, this organism is pure-white, elegant, and majestic. It is native to Thailand.

  • Yin yang frog

    ‘Yin-yang’ frog (Leptobrachium leucops)

    This new species was found in southern Vietnam. Its striking black and white eyes are unique to this kind of frog, measuring only 1.5 inches long. It has only been found in wet evergreen and cloud forests.

  • walking catfish

    Walking catfish (Clarias gracilentus)

    This species lives in freshwater streams on the island of Phu Quoc in Vietnam. While it does not truly walk, the ‘walking catfish’ has the ability to use its pectoral fins to stay upright while it wiggles forward with snakelike movements.


  • Beelzebub's bat

    Bat from the underworld (Murina beelzebub)

    This tube-nosed bat is a diminutive 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.

  • Subterranean blind fish

    Subterranean blind fish (Bangana musaei)

    From the carp family of fish, and measuring three inches, this species was found in a tributary of the Mekong river in central Laos that runs four miles underground through limestone. Because of its subterranean nature, this fish is totally blind.

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