208 Species Discovered in Asia’s Mekong Region in 1 Year
Deep in a remote forest, locals report that the small black-and-white monkeys with tiny upturned noses are easy to locate, especially when it rains.
But scientists in the rest of the world just learned of “Snubby” — as they have nicknamed the species — this year, from hunters in Myanmar’s remote, mountainous Kachin State. It has never been photographed alive.
The primate is just one of the 208 species discovered in the Greater Mekong region in the past year, according to a report released today (Dec. 12) by the conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
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The Greater Mekong region, which sprawls across the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China, teems with some of the most diverse, and endangered, species of plants and animals on the planet. [Images of the new species.]
“Biodiversity isn’t evenly distributed around the planet - some areas [are] more blessed than others,” said Stuart Chapman, director of the WWF Greater Mekong Program.
And in the Greater Mekong, “there is incredible diversity - swamps to forest to a river that stretches from plateau to delta,” Chapman said.
An unexplored world
One reason for the high rate of scientific discoveries is that, unlike the Indonesian/Malaysian island of Borneo and other high-diversity regions around the world, the Greater Mekong was off-limits to researchers until the past two decades because of war and political conflict.
One species discovered in the past year was an all-female lizard species that reproduces via cloning. A scientist found the live lizards in a cage outside of a restaurant in the BaRia-Vung Tau province of Vietnam, ready to become someone’s dinner.
Chapman says such a serendipitous method of discovery is not all that uncommon. “Some of the more-spectacular discoveries have often been from local knowledge, from animals appearing in markets and biologists not recognizing what they were looking at,” he told OurAmazingPlanet.