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300+ New Species Found in Mysterious Mekong Over Last 2 Years
Jun 09, 2014

The discovery of over 300 new species of animals, fish and plants in the region in 2012-13 comes as scientists revealed that human activities such as the destruction of habitats, hunting and the pollution of land and water have driven extinction rates to 1000 times faster than the natural rate. 

The discoveries in the Mekong region illustrate how, even as many species are dying out, new animals can be revealed even in heavily populated areas. The new species of red-and-white-furred flying squirrel was discovered on sale in a bush meat market in Laos. In Cambodia, a new tailorbird warbler was found hiding in plain sight in the capital Phnom Penh, during routine checks for avian flu. 

"The species discoveries affirm the Greater Mekong as one of the world’s richest and most biodiverse region," said Thomas Gray, manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Programme. “If we’re to prevent these new species disappearing into extinction, and to keep alive the hope of finding other fascinating creatures in years to come, it’s critical that governments invest in conservation.” 

Among the 21 new amphibian species discovered is Helen’s flying frog, discovered less than 62 miles from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The huge green frog managed to evade biologists until recently by using its large, webbed hands and feet to glide between treetops and only coming down to breed in rain pools. It was found in a patch of forest surrounded by farmland, highlighting the urgent need for conservation. 

Also discovered in Vietnam was a tiny new fish with a very complex anatomy which includes having its sex organs just behind its mouth. As a result, it mates head-to-head.  

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