Over 1000 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong Region since last decade

The Optimist Travel Team

Last updated 1/12/2009 12:22:54 AM

In the last decade, over 1000 new species, equal to two a week, have been discovered in the Greater Mekong Region of Southeast Asia, according to WWF’s report First Contact in the Greater Mekong.

The news has given a fresh hope for environmentalists, after a string of negative reports last year on rising water level and poverty issues surrounding the area.

“This region is like what I read about as a child in the stories of Charles Darwin,” said Dr Thomas Ziegler, Curator at the Cologne Zoo.

“It is a great feeling being in an unexplored area and to document its biodiversity for the first time… both enigmatic and beautiful,” he said.

One of the most surprising find is the Laotian rock rat (Laonastes aenigmamus), which was thought to be extinct 11 million years ago, first encountered by scientists in a local food market.

Other findings include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad.

The region comprises the six countries through which the Mekong River flows including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.

It is estimated thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered during this period, further highlighting the region’s immense biodiversity.

Stuart Chapman, Director of WWF’s Greater Mekong Programme, said, “We thought discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books. This reaffirms the Greater Mekong’s place on the world map of conservation priorities.”

Chapman stressed that a formal, cross-border agreement by the governments of Greater Mekong is needed to help protect the biological diversity of the region.

“Whilst also providing for livelihoods and alleviating poverty, economic development and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand.”