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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid