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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
22 May 2023, Washington, D.C. - A color-changing lizard, a thick-thumbed bat, a poisonous snake named after a Chinese mythological goddess, an orchid that looks like a muppet, and a tree frog with skin that resembles thick moss are five of the 380 new species described by scientists in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia in 2021 and 2022, according to a new report released today by WWF. With many of the species already under threat of extinction from human activities, WWF is calling on governments in the region to increase protection for these rare, amazing creatures and their habitats.
The report documents the work of hundreds of scientists from universities, conservation organizations and research institutes around the world who discovered 290 plants, 19 fishes, 24 amphibians, 46 reptiles and one mammal in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. This brings the total number of vascular plants, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals described in the Greater Mekong region since 1997 to 3,389.
“These remarkable species may be new to science but they have survived and evolved in the Greater Mekong region for millions of years, reminding us humans that they were there a very long time before our species moved into this region,” said K. Yoganand, WWF-Greater Mekong regional wildlife lead. “We have an obligation to do everything to stop their extinction and protect their habitats, and help their recovery.”
Highlights of the report include:
“While the Mekong region is a global biodiversity hotspot, it is also experiencing a vast array of threats,” said WWF-US Asian Species Manager Nilanga Jayasinghe. “We must continue to invest in the protection and conservation of nature, so these magnificent species don’t disappear before we know of their existence.”
In his foreword to the report, Dr. Truong Q. Nguyen with the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, notes that immediate action and the increased use of new technologies such as bio-acoustics and genetic sequencing are needed to help scientists discover more species in this biodiversity hotspot. “To reverse the rapid biodiversity loss in the region, more concerted, science based, and urgent efforts need to be made and conservation measures need more attention from governments, NGOs and the public,” he said.
WWF works with government, non-profit and private partners across the five Greater Mekong countries on conservation strategies designed to protect these species and their habitat. They protect flagship species such as Asian elephants, Irrawaddy dolphins and tigers, as well as the forests, rivers and oceans they depend on. To stop wildlife declines, WWF is strengthening protected areas, and tackling the snaring crisis, illegal wildlife markets, online wildlife trade, and the financial crimes associated with wildlife trafficking.
Notes to Editors: