December 12, 2011
Two Species Per Day Discovered In Mekong Jungle
The diversity of life in the Mekong River region of Southeast Asia, which includes portions of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, is so astonishing that a new species is found every two days, according to various media reports.
Two-hundred and eight new species were discovered during the last year alone, including a multi-colored gecko and a black and white snub-nosed monkey with an “Elvis” hairdo.
The region is also home to some of the world´s most endangered species, including tigers, Asian elephants, Mekong dolphins and Mekong giant catfish, explains the environment-defending World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
“This is a region of extraordinary richness in terms of biodiversity but also one that is extremely fragile,” Sarah Bladen, communications director for WWF Greater Mekong, told the Associated Press (AP). “It´s losing biodiversity at a tragic rate.”
Among the new finds of the last year are a lizard that reproduces via cloning without the need for males, a fish that resembles a gherkin, and five species of carnivorous pitcher plant, some of which lure in and consume animals as large as rats and birds.
“Mekong governments have to stop thinking about biodiversity protection as a cost and recognize it as an investment to ensure long-term stability,” Stuart Chapman, Conservation Director of WWF Greater Mekong, said in a recent press release.
“The region´s treasure trove of biodiversity will be lost if governments fail to invest in the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity, which is so fundamental to ensuring long-term sustainability in the face of global environmental change.”
The extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam, recently confirmed by WWF, is one tragic indicator of the decline of biodiversity in the region. The Mekong´s wild places and wildlife are under extreme pressure from rapid, unsustainable development and climate change.
Despite restrictions, trade in wildlife remains an active threat to a range of endangered animals in the region with some hunted because body parts, rhinoceros horns being one example, are coveted ingredients in traditional Asian medicine, reports Elaine Lies for Reuters.
Others, such as Mekong dolphins, face threats from fishing gear such as gill nets and illegal fishing methods, prompting the WWF in August to warn that one dolphin population in the river was at high risk of extinction.
The WWF is calling on the six leaders from the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) meeting next week in Myanmar to put the benefits of biodiversity, and the costs of losing it, at the center of decision-making and regional cooperation.
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