A devil-horned newt, drought-resilient bamboo and a monkey named after a volcano were among 224 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2020, a conservation group said on Wednesday, despite the “intense threat” of habitat loss.
The discoveries listed in a report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) include a new rock gecko found in Thailand, a mulberry tree species in Vietnam, and a big-headed frog in Vietnam and Cambodia that is already threatened by deforestation.
Some of the more curious creatures include the Popa Langur, a monkey with long limbs and a long tail, named after the extinct volcano Mount Popa, home to about 100 of these monkeys – the largest population of the species.
There’s the cavefish discovered in Myanmar, colored a pale yellow-white, which is so unusual and different from other fish in the same family that scientists decided to create a whole new genus for it. Then there’s the iridescent snake, its scales shifting through blues and greens in the light.
The 224 discoveries underlined the rich biodiversity of the Mekong region, which encompasses Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, said WWF.
But it also highlights the threats facing wildlife in fragmented and degraded natural habitats, with experts and scientists urging greater international cooperation to preserve what’s left.
The discoveries in the Mekong “demonstrate that the region is still a frontline for scientific exploration and a hotspot of species diversity,” the report said. “However, these discoveries also are a stark reminder of what we stand to lose if human settlement and development activities in the region continue to destroy the natural environment.
“Many species go extinct before they are even discovered, driven by habitat destruction, diseases spread by human activities, predation and competition brought by invasive species, and the devastating impacts of illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade.”
The area is home to some of the world’s most endangered species. A United Nations report last year said wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia was creeping back after a temporary disruption from coronavirus restrictions, which saw countries shut borders and tighten surveillance.