Toggle Nav

Natural Treasures Discovered in the Greater Mekong

According to a new report by WWF and partners, over 1,000 species have been newly discovered in the Greater Mekong over the last ten years. That’s an average of two per week – making this one of the most prolific rates of discovery in the world.

Greater Mekong at-a-glance

The Greater Mekong Region encompasses a wide range of habitats which support extraordinary levels of biodiversity. Well-known species such as the Indo-Chinese tiger, Irrawaddy dolphin and Javan rhino live here, as well as newly-discovered fauna – like the hot-pink dragon millipede that produces cyanide as a defense mechanism. 

“Within a decade of creating and supporting protected areas in the Greater Mekong, we’re seeing incredible results. In some areas, there’s a resurgence in species that we thought had gone extinct—but in other cases it’s a newly discovered species,” says Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the WWF-US Greater Mekong Program. She points to the Laotian rock rat (Laonastes aenigmamus) or Kha-nyou, thought to be extinct 11 million years ago, but recently rediscovered by scientists.
Watch a video of the Kha-nyou

First Contact in the Greater Mekong celebrates the unique wildlife found in this extraordinary region, while highlighting the pressures it faces from unsustainable economic development. WWF is working with governments and industry of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam to ensure that economic development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand to provide for livelihoods and alleviate poverty – while ensuring the survival of the Greater Mekong’s astonishing array of species.

Download the report

READ the press release

Mammal spotlight: Annamite striped rabbit

Globally, new mammal discoveries are extremely rare, but the Greater Mekong is proving to be a hotspot for new mammal finds. In Vietnam and neighbouring Laos, the Annamite striped rabbit was identified in 2000. The furry black and brown species resembles the endangered Sumatran striped rabbit, the only other known striped rabbit. The find extends the known range of the genus Nesolagus more than 900 miles north of the island of Sumatra into mainland Southeast Asia. However, genetic data indicates that the Sumatran and mainland Annamite populations have been isolated for millions of years.

Amphibian spotlight: Chiromantis samkosensis

The countries of the Greater Mekong have done much to further Southeast Asia's reputation as a "lost world" for amphibians. An astonishing 91 new species of amphibian have been described within the region since 1997. In Vietnam alone the known frog diversity has doubled since 1999 as a result of intensive scientific study on the fauna of the country.

The unique Rana morafkai frogs are unusual in that they often turn brown at night, but during the day their entire body becomes green. In Cambodia, a new species of rhacophorid frog, Chiromantis samkosensis, was identified in 2007 and is distinguished from other species of Asian Chiromantis by having green blood and turquoise bones.

View a Slideshow on Mekong Species

Image: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

© Toon Fey/WWF
Discovered in 1992, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is a flagship species of WWF's conservation work - and one of the most threatened species in the Mekong Region.

WWF: a decade of results

Over the last 10 years, WWF has been working with local communities, governments and industry across the region  to conserve and manage habitats inside and outside protected areas. Our successes in the Greater Mekong are the direct result of our partnerships to identify mutual solutions that bridge the needs of development with conservation. From our work on sustainable road and dam development and agricultural practices to species discoveries – WWF is protecting the future of this amazing region and its diverse habitats.

<< Back