Mekong Area Home to Thousands of Newly Discovered Species, Biodiversity Awareness Needed

cnemaspis psychedelica © L. Lee Grismer

Throughout most of the world, the list of endangered animals continues to grow, year after year. Many animals are now extinct. Even more teeter on the brink of extinction. But there is one place in the world where every two days, a new, undiscovered species is found – the Greater Mekong Area.

During the release of the initial report First Contact in December of 2008, more than 1,000 new species were showcased. Another 154 species have been added since then, bringing the grand total for newly discovered species to 1,584 species in the Greater Mekong Area, just since 1997.

Some of the highlighted discoveries included an all-female lizard found in Vietnam – one of 28 new reptiles, a snub-nosed monkey that was found in Myanmar’s mountains, and even five carnivorous plants that have the ability to draw in and consume animals as large as birds.

Sadly, the fate of these newly discovered species (and quite possibly many that have yet to be discovered) may not be any better than the rest of the world’s plants and animals. The Greater Mekong area is suffering from rapid and unsustainable development. Climate changes have also placed great stress on the biodiversity of the area. One species, the Javan rhino in Vietnam has already gone extinct. Only a small population in Indonesia exists today.

“While the 2010 discoveries are new to science, many are already destined for the dinner table, struggling to survive in shrinking habitats and at risk of extinction,”  stated the Conservation Director of WWF Greater Mekong, Stuart Chapman. “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.”

Six leaders in the Greater Mekong Sub-region will meet next week with the WWF. The WWF hopes to put issues of biodiversity at the forefront of the discussions, educating the leaders on the benefits and importance of biodiversity. They also plan to discuss the costs of losing that biodiversity. A ten-year strategic plan for making the GMS Master plan a little greener is expected to come out of the Summit meetings – we can only hope.

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Cathy

Cathy Givans is a wife, a mother of five littles and a freelance writer. She nursed all five of her children and is an advocate for breastfeeding rights and benefits. She has made her own cloth diapers and enjoys reading to her children when she has free time. Cathy and her family are learning how to live green and changed to a vegetarian lifestyle about a year ago. They are currently working on moving into a complete vegan lifestyle.

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