05 Jun Myanmar yields 26 species new to science, says WWF report

Written by Mizzima Published in Environment Read 6845 times
This newly revealed species of catfish (Glyptothorax igniculus) was found in a tributary of the Ayeryarwady River. It has a unique flame-shaped suction cup on its throat, not clearly visible in the image, which it uses to adhere to surfaces. Photo: Heok Hee Ng This newly revealed species of catfish (Glyptothorax igniculus) was found in a tributary of the Ayeryarwady River. It has a unique flame-shaped suction cup on its throat, not clearly visible in the image, which it uses to adhere to surfaces. Photo: Heok Hee Ng

A species of ginger plant that grows in the cloud forests of the Rakhine Yoma, an Ayeyarwady tributary catfish with a unique flame-shaped cup 'suction cup on its throat and a dragonfish with striking markings on its scales are among 26 new species in Myanmar reported by the WWF in its 'Mysterious Mekong' report released on June 5.

The 26 Myanmar entries in the report, released to coincide with World Environment Day, are among 367 new species revealed by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2012-2013, the WWF said.

The 26 Myanmar species ? 14 plants, seven fish, four amphibians and a reptile ? include a Tanintharyi Region stream toad with bumpy, chocolate-coloured skins and long, slender limbs.

 “These amazing discoveries underscore the urgent need for further exploration and conservation across the Greater Mekong, but especially here in Myanmar,” WWF country director, Dr Khin Ni Ni Thein was quoted as saying a June 5 news release.

“There are potentially thousands of new species yet to be discovered in Myanmar’s rich forests, rivers and oceans," Dr Khin Ni Ni Thein said.

"We need to ensure they are identified and their habitat protected before it is too late,” he said.

Among the 367 newly identified species found throughout the region, which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China's southwestern Yunnan province, are 290 plants, 28 reptiles, 24 fish, 21 amphibians, three mammals and a bird.

"These species discoveries affirm that the Greater Mekong is truly one of the world's richest and most biologically diverse regions," WWF-Myanmar conservation programme manager Michelle Owen was quoted as saying in the news release.

"The fact that 26 species were discovered in relatively unexplored Myanmar highlights the urgent need to invest in conservation and ensure biodiversity is considered as part of a sustainable and green development approach," Ms Owen said.

The report says two new species of reptile, including a parachute gecko (Ptychozoon kaengkrachanense), were found in southern Thailand's Kaeng Krachan National Park, which borders Myanmar.

"Kaeng Krachan National Park and the forests across the border in Myanmar are some of the least explored areas in Southeast Asia," Ms Owen said.

"This landscape is the beating heart for species discovery in Thailand and Myanmar, and Kaeng Krachan is home to one of the world's most important tiger populations.

"These new discoveries confirm the importance of conservation efforts by WWF and partners in this awe-inspiring and ecologically important landscape."

Several species from throughout the region were highlighted in the report, including the discovery of a new species of flying squirrel, Biswamoyopterus laoensis, based on an animal collected at a bush meat market in Laos. The Laotian giant flying squirrel, which has distinctive red and white fur, is the first record of the genus in Southeast Asia.

The 21 new amphibian species documented in the report includes Helen's Flying Frog (Rhacophorus helenae), found less than 100 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam.

WWF said the big green frog had managed to evade discovery until recently by gliding between treetops ? using its large, webbed hands and feet ? and only coming down to breed in rain pools.

"Helen's Flying Frog was found in a patch of forest surrounded by agricultural land, highlighting the urgent need for conservation in lowland forests," WWF said.

Since 1997, 2077 new species have been newly described by science in the Greater Mekong region, the news release said.

Last modified on Thursday, 05 June 2014 16:33