An incredible 115 new species were discovered in Asia’s Greater Mekong region in 2016.
These include a snail-eating turtle discovered in a Thai food market and a horseshoe bat that would not look out of place in a Star Wars Movie.
WWF’s new Stranger Species report details the recent discoveries of three mammals, 11 amphibians, two fish, 11 reptiles and 88 plants found by scientists in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
A few of the amazing discoveries include:
A mountain horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus monticolus), found in the evergreen forests of mountainous Laos and Thailand, that took 10 years to determine as a new species. It has a distinctive horseshoe-shaped facial structure – known as a noseleaf.
A Vietnamese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis), that lives in remote freshwater and evergreen forest habitats of South China and Northern Vietnam. It is so heavily threatened by habitat destruction, coal mining and collection for the pet trade that as few as 200 individuals could remain in Vietnam.
A snail eating turtle (Malayemys isan), that was discovered in a local market in Northeast Thailand, having been caught in a nearby canal by shopkeepers. The turtle is threatened by infrastructure, such as dams, showing the need for protection under Thai law.
A vibrantly coloured frog (Odorrana Mutschmanni), which is one of five new species discovered in the same karst forest in Northern Vietnam. These species are threatened by quarrying for cement and road construction and their karst forest home desperately needs new protection.
Two moles (Euroscaptor orlovi and Euroscaptor kuznetsovi), which were discovered in a network of streams and rivers in Northern Vietnam.
These new species discoveries come at a critical time.
WWF’s latest Living Planet Report found that by 2020, global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles could have declined by two thirds in just 50 years. The Greater Mekong region is under intense development pressure from mines to roads to dams, threatening the survival of the natural landscapes that make it so unique. Poaching for bushmeat or the multi-billion pound illegal wildlife trade puts additional pressure on the region’s wildlife, meaning many species could be lost before they are even discovered.
Photo credits from the top: Thomas Ziegler, Pipat Soisook, Montri Sumontha, Troung Nguyen