Asia Minute: 115 New Species in the Mekong Region

Dec 20, 2017

Mekong River in Laos
Credit Wikimedia Commons

News about wildlife frequently involves endangered species. In Hawai‘i, there’s also a lot of attention to invasive species. It’s a lot less common to talk about NEW species—but that’s the focus of news from Asia this week. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The Mekong River region of Southeast Asia is home to some of the most diverse animal and plant populations on earth. The World Wildlife Foundation has been tallying up the research of scientists working in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Foundation says the Mekong continues to be the source of new species of plants and animals—115 species in the latest count. It’s a continuing project, a spokesman for the group says the pattern has been the discovery of two new species a week and 2,500 over the past 20 years.

The most recent tally sounds like a conservationist’s version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

New species include 88 kinds of plants, eleven amphibians, eleven reptiles, three mammals and two fish.

Some of the newcomers include: a mountain horseshoe bat found in the forests of up country Laos and Thailand, a snail-eating turtle elsewhere in Thailand, and two new kinds of moles found in Vietnam.

That’s on top of a crocodile lizard and a new species of frog.

A spokesman for the World Wildlife Foundation says the annual count brings attention to the fragility of many species. And the need to increase enforcement of poaching laws to protect the vulnerable.