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New species found in Greater Mekong region

New species found in Greater Mekong region

One hundred and fifty-seven new species of flora and fauna were discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2017 – eight in Cambodia – according to a new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released on Wednesday.

According to the report, New Species on the Block, the eight species found in Cambodia are plants and fish, and one of them was bamboo called Schizostachyum cambodianum which was found at the Cardamom Mountains.

The report said this kind of bamboo was discovered in Cambodia in 2015 but it was only later confirmed as unique after careful investigation.

“This bamboo is very special because of the conspicuous basal lobe on the culm sheath and is the first of its kind known in Indo-China and Southeast Asia,” said Dr Khoon Meng Wong, a researcher at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Of the 157 newly discovered species, three were mammals, 23 fish, 14 amphibians, 26 reptiles and 91 plant species. 24 new species were discovered in Laos, 39 in Myanmar, 37 in Thailand and 57 in Vietnam.

A total of 2,600 new species have been discovered between 1997 and 2017 in the region, the report said.

“These incredible scientific achievements illustrate how little we know about the habitats and creatures the Mekong region supports and emphasises the potential for future discoveries,” the report said.

The report said human activity puts great pressure on all animals in the Greater Mekong region, an area considered a treasure trove of biodiversity.

“The development of roads, dams, agriculture, and mining are degrading and in some places, completely clearing away the habitats of endemic and globally threatened species."

“Poaching and snaring for the lucrative wildlife trade is also wreaking havoc on wildlife populations,” the report said, stressing the importance of conservation measures being carried out in Southeast Asia and within the Greater Mekong region.

WWF Asia-Pacific Regional Director for Conservation Impact Stuart Chapman said in a press release that there were many more species in the region to be discovered and many more would be lost before they would be discovered.

“There is blood, sweat and tears behind every new discovery. But it’s a race against time to announce a new discovery so steps can be taken to protect it before it’s too late,” he said.

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