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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
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.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid