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More than 150 new species found in southeast Asia

December 19, 2016

Scientists have discovered 163 new species in the Greater Mekong, according to a World Wide Fund for Nature report. The discoveries included plants and a frog so small it can sit on one's fingertip

Mekong-Region Tylototriton anguliceps
Image: picture alliance/WWF/Porrawee Pomchote

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) published a report Monday, detailing 163 new species discovered last year in the ecologically diverse tract of Southeast Asia known as the Greater Mekong region.

"The Greater Mekong region keeps reminding us that there are many incredible, unexplored areas, leading to new discoveries happening every year, and it is crucial that we protect them before they are lost," said Jimmy Borah of WWF's Greater Mekong team.

The Greater Mekong region includes parts of southwestern China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Though the area is ecologically diverse, wildlife in the area is threatened by dam and road building and the illegal trade of rare and endangered species. Some of the traded commodities are used as collector's items and others in traditional medicine.

China Mekong-Region
The Greater Mekong region in southeast Asia has seen more than 2,000 new species discovered since 1997Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Imaginechina/Bo Boboboho

"Many collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species, often buying them at the region's illegal wildlife markets," said Borah.

From critters to bananas

Of the 163 species discovered, 126 were plants. There were also 14 reptile, 11 fish, nine amphibian and three mammal species.

In northern Vietnam, researchers found a rare species of banana that was endangered by increasing deforestation in the area. A species of frog that can fit on a fingertip, the leptolalax isos, was discovered in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Between 1997 and 2015, 2,409 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong region, a rate of about two new discoveries per week.

kbd/tj (AFP, Reuters)