In just two years, scientists have discovered 380 species of animals and plants in the Southeast Asian Mekong region that have never been described before. Most "new" species have been documented in Vietnam and Thailand, followed by Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, according to a report released today by the environmental foundation WWF.
The new discoveries showed that the region is still "fertile ground for scientific exploration and a biodiversity hotspot." However, they also made it dramatically clear how much is at stake from the increasing destruction of habitats.
From snakes to flowers
Previously unknown species include the blue-headed lizard (Calotes goetzi) from Cambodia, which changes color in defense, and a species of frog (Theloderma khoii) from northern Vietnam, which camouflages itself with a moss-like skin texture. A highly venomous snake (Bungarus suzhenae) named after a snake goddess in Chinese legend has also been documented.
The only mammal on the list is a mouse-eared bat (Myotis hayesi) from Cambodia. In return, all the more beautiful flowers were discovered, such as the bright pink-yellow mini orchid Dendrobium fuscifaucium (Laos) and new species of begonias and rhododendrons.
According to WWF Germany, 3,389 previously unknown plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have been documented around the mighty Mekong River since 1997. State-of-the-art technologies would help, such as bioacoustic methods for analyzing the sounds made by animals or advances in genetic sequencing, the report says.
nature is threatened
"There are probably still countless species in the Mekong region that are unknown to science. Animal and plant species could be wiped out forever before we even know they exist," warned Stefan Ziegler from WWF Germany.
Among other things, huge hydroelectric power plants and massive poaching pose a threat. The aim must be to protect the biologically valuable areas on the Mekong across borders and permanently, emphasized Ziegler.
On the occasion of the International Biodiversity Day, the WWF also called on the federal government to do more to protect global biodiversity. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced in September 2022 at the UN General Assembly that international biodiversity funding would be increased to 1.5 billion euros per year by 2025. In view of the extinction of species, Germany must finally "press the gas pedal" and fulfill the promises.