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New Discoveries in the Greater Mekong Highlight the Need for Urgent Action

An International Effort

The United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the world’s conservation convention. The convention offers WWF the opportunity to shape international perspectives and targets on biodiversity so that the resources and activities of 193 governments and donors support WWF’s vision and priorities for conservation.

WWF wants the countries of the Greater Mekong to make a bold statement of leadership for biodiversity conservation. Through follow-up at the national level WWF can ensure that these decisions are translated into action on the ground.

A seven meter tall carnivorous plant, a fish with vampire fangs, and a frog that sounds like a cricket are among 145 new species described last year in the Greater Mekong region, reaffirming the region as one of the most significant biological hotspots on the planet.

New Blood: Greater Mekong New Species Discoveries 2009, reveals an average of three new species recorded by science each week. New species that were discovered in this region include five new mammal species, two bats and three shrews, a poisonous pit viper and an entirely new genus of fang-less snake.

The Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia through which the Mekong River flows includes the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan Province in southern China. The region is home to some of the planet’s most endangered wild species including tigers, Asian elephants, Mekong dolphins and Mekong giant catfish, in addition to the hundreds of newly discovered species. Between 1997 and 2008 an incredible 1,231 species were discovered by science across this region alone.

While these discoveries display the Greater Mekong’s immense biodiversity, the report also brings attention to the fragility of this region’s diverse habitats and species. The likely local extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam is one tragic indicator of the decline of biodiversity in recent times.

Species spotlight: Giant carnivorous pitcher plant

Nepenthes bokorensis was discovered in southern Cambodia, and can climb up to 23 feet high.
© Francois Mey

This species produces pitchers that are green with bright red accents. The pitchers alone can be up to a foot long, and trap ants and other insects, which are then broken down to feed the plant.

The plant also has broad green leaves, yellow stems, and faint purple blotching all over. The root of this plant has traditionally been boiled and given to pregnant women to ease pain.

The species was discovered on Cambodia’s Bokor Hill – which is now a protected area. However, the Cambodian government has leased much of the land to private developers to expand the tourism industry. Scientists are thus currently petitioning that this species be added to the IUCN Red List, because the land development puts the species at risk for extinction.

View the landscapes of the Mekong—a region made up of over 200 million acres across 6 countries.

Learn more:
WWF’s work in the Mekong
Species of the Mekong