Hundreds of new species discovered in Southeast Asia's Mekong region at risk of extinction


The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has called on governments in Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong region to increase protection for newly discovered species at risk of extinction.

An international team of scientists and researchers discovered 380 new species across Asia, such as a color-changing lizard, a muppet-like orchid, a new venomous snake and a tree frog with skin that resembles moss. The discoveries were made from 2021 to 2022 across five countries in the biodiverse region, including Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The team found 290 plants, 19 fish species, 24 amphibians, 46 reptiles and one mammal.

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In Laos’ Vientiane province, the Dendrobium fuscifaucium orchid was discovered coincidentally by a local vendor.

A toad discovered in the Thai-Malay peninsula was named Ansonia infernalis for its bright reddish and orange coloration that resembles “the flames of hell,” according to researchers.

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“These remarkable species may be new to science but they have survived and evolved in the Greater Mekong region for millions of years, reminding us humans that they were there a very long time before our species moved into this region,” K. Yoganand, head of WWF’s Greater Mekong regional wildlife, told CNN.

However, the WWF noted that the newly discovered species may soon disappear due to human activities that threaten their existence.

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According to Truong Q. Nguyen, writer of the foreword to the WWF findings, the species in the Greater Mekong region face threats of “deforestation, pollution and overexploitation of natural resources, compounded by the effects of climate change.”

More concerted, science-based and urgent efforts need to be made to reverse the rapid biodiversity loss in the region. Using the critical evidence base that is laid by scientists, we all need to urgently invest time and resources into the best ways to conserve the known and yet unknown species.

The WWF has been working with governments, nonprofits and partners across the Greater Mekong countries on conservation strategies to protect the newly discovered species and their habitats.

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