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
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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs