New species in the Mekong


This “cricket chirping” frog was unknown to humans until last year – and even then it was almost overlooked as scientists exploring the Quang Nam Province of Vietnam were so convinced its faint rasping noise was coming from an insect.


The frog – which scientists suspect number only in the thousands – was one of 145 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong last year. And it is in good company: a seven-metre tall carnivorous plant and a largely translucent fish with vampire fangs are also among the newcomers.

This month, WWF released a report detailing the new findings, called “New Blood: Greater Mekong new species discoveries 2009”. It describes the species, from the Bare-faced bulbul – Asia’s only known bald songbird – to a new kind of sucker-fish, which uses moves upstream in fast flowing waters by using its body to sucker onto rocks.

While the report celebrates the rich biodiversity of the Mekong region, it also highlights its fragility. The lack of higher ground for species to migrate to in the region, for instance, will hinder the ability of lowland creatures to adapt to climate change – and many are likely to become extinct, it says.

As ministers discuss the future of species protection at the UN biodiversity summit in Nagoya, Stuart Chapman, conservation director of WWF Greater Mekong, said the new discoveries strengthened the argument for channelling finance into the region: “Biodiversity is not evenly distributed around the globe. These new species are a timely reminder of the extraordinary biodiversity in the Greater Mekong. Therefore, a greater allocation of funds is needed to ensure these valuable ecosystems are conserved.”