News / Science & Technology

Newly Discovered Animals in Mekong Deemed Highly Vulnerable

Cambodian Tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), a small, light and dark grey bird with an orange-red tuft, was described by scientists as "hiding in plain sight" in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh when first spotted in 2009. (James Eaton/Birdtour Asia)
Cambodian Tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), a small, light and dark grey bird with an orange-red tuft, was described by scientists as "hiding in plain sight" in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh when first spotted in 2009. (James Eaton/Birdtour Asia)
Nearly 400 plants and animals were discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2012 and 2013, bringing the total of new species found in the area to more than 2,000 in the past 17 years.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, scientists say a warbler found to have been hiding in plain sight around the Cambodian capital is among the new species documented.

Thomas Gray, manager of the WWF-Greater Mekong Species Program, says the Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk) is the only bird added to the new species compilation for 2012 and 2013.

“Birds are perhaps the most well-studied group of animals on the planet and a new species of bird discovered less than five kilometers away from where I’m talking to you here in Phnom Penh, inhabiting some of the flood plain scrub that is outside of Phnom Penh, is amazing,” he said.

Herpetologist Jodi Rowley from the Australian Museum Research Institute is credited with finding a giant, bright green flying frog — a discovery she calls unexpected.

“It’s actually quite unusual where we found it," she said. "I was surveying a patch of forest not that far from Ho Chi Minh City, one of the biggest cities in Southeast Asia, and I wasn’t actually expecting to find anything new. And while we were walking along a footpath through the forest, a dirt track, there was this huge green flying frog just sitting on a log next to the path not that far from roads, people and buffaloes.”

Initially Rowley did not realize she had made a discovery because she had thought it was a similar already-known giant frog. But when she saw that other frog a year later — is has since been named Rhacophorus helenae — she concluded the Vietnamese frog she had crossed paths with was indeed something new.

She notes that the only two places where her new 10-centimeter long frogs have been spotted are surrounded by rice paddies and other agriculture.

“There’s no way for them to traverse through the rice paddies because they’re so dependent on trees," she said. "We’re very worried about their long-term conservation in these two little patches of lowland forest which are so threatened. This is the same area that the rhinoceros became extinct in Vietnam a few years ago, as well. So it’s in a lot of trouble.”

It is not the only newly discovered animal or plant in trouble. The Greater Mekong lies in one of the five most threatened biodiversity hotspots on the planet.

WWF’s Thomas Gray says rapid, unsustainable development is just one of the dangers confronting the flora and fauna.

“Ironically one of the new species, a giant flying squirrel from Laos, was discovered in a wildlife meat market, which highlights another of the major threats to the species — the rampant trade in wild meat, in bush meat and other luxury wildlife products," he said.

Among the other previously unknown species documented in the new WWF report: the “hunch-bat” (Hipposideros griffin), found in two Vietnamese national parks that lie 1,000 kilometers apart; an unusually long rainbow lizard (Lygosoma veunsaiensis) in Cambodia; the first eyeless huntsman spider (Sinopoda scurion), discovered in a cave in Laos; and a Vietnamese walking snakehead fish (Channa longistomata), which is able to survive on land for days.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid