WWF announces discovery of 157 new species in Southeast Asia

The Skywalker gibbon, named for the "Star Wars" character, is one of dozens of new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2017.

(CNN)A bat which looks like *NSYNC's Lance Bass, a gibbon named for Luke Skywalker, and a toad which seems to have come "from Middle Earth," are among 157 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong Region last year, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund.

Three mammal, 23 fish, 14 amphibian, 26 reptile and 91 plant species were found in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, in some of the region's most impenetrable terrain, such as remote mountainous and dense jungle areas, as well as isolated rivers and grassland.
However, experts warned that many more undiscovered species will be lost due to deforestation, climate change, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
"There are many more species out there waiting to be discovered and tragically, many more that will be lost before that happens," Stuart Chapman, WWF's Asia-Pacific Regional Director for Conservation Impact, said in a statement. "It doesn't have to be this way. Ensuring that large reserves are designated for wildlife, along with increased efforts to close illegal wildlife trade markets, will go a long way to conserving the extraordinary wildlife diversity in the Mekong region."
Much of the wildlife described in the new report -- "New Species on the Block" -- is already at risk of population loss or even extinction.
This fragility ranges from bamboo -- a variety with unique bulb-like features at its base, discovered in Cambodia's fragrant Cardamom Mountains, vulnerable to clearing -- to the new thismia herb from Laos, already endangered because its habitat has been leased out for limestone mining.
Of the new mammals discovered, the Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon was first sighted in mid-2017 and named after the "Star Wars" character, to actor Mark Hamill's delight. Already however, it is the 25th most endangered primate in the world and faces a "grave and imminent risk to its survival as (do) many other small ape species in southern China and Southeast Asia due to habitat loss and hunting," according to the team which discovered it.
While Laos and Myanmar have tried to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade, by increasing penalties and shutting down shops and markets, poachers can easily capture and transport animals across borders, particularly in places such as Mongla and Tachilek in Myanmar, said Lee Poston, spokesman for the WWF in the Greater Mekong area.