Rain­bow snake and tiny frog among new Mekong species

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

BANGKOK: A rain­bow-headed snake, a tiny frog and a lizard with dragon-like horns are among more than 150 new species con­firmed by sci­en­tists last year in the eco­log­i­cally di­verse but threat­ened Mekong re­gion, re­searchers said yes­ter­day. Wind­ing its way from the Ti­betan plateau through the moun­tains and jun­gles of South­east Asia, the Mekong river helps sus­tain one of the most di­verse re­gions on the planet.

Each year sci­en­tists an­nounce new species, af­ter an of­ten lengthy iden­ti­fi­ca­tion process, high­light­ing how much more there is to learn about the re­gion. But there are fears many species may die out be­fore even be­ing dis­cov­ered in an area of the world that is rapidly de­vel­op­ing, where rule of law is no­to­ri­ously shaky and wildlife smug­gling ram­pant.

“The Greater Mekong re­gion is a mag­net for the world’s con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tists be­cause of the in­cred­i­ble di­ver­sity of species that con­tinue to be dis­cov­ered here,” Jimmy Bo­rah, from WWF’s Greater Mekong team said. “They are rac­ing against time to en­sure that these newly dis­cov­ered species are pro­tected.”

The Greater Mekong re­gion-which in­cludes south­west­ern China, Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia, Laos, Thai­land and Myan­mar-is un­der in­tense pres­sure from dam and road build­ing as well as a thriv­ing il­le­gal wildlife trade, much of it cen­tred around the law- less Golden Tri­an­gle area where the lat­ter three meet.

“Many col­lec­tors are will­ing to pay thou­sands of dol­lars or more for the rarest, most unique and most en­dan­gered species,” Bo­rah said. In to­tal, sci­en­tists de­scribed 163 new species in 2015 in­clud­ing nine am­phib­ians, three mam­mals, 11 fish, 14 rep­tiles and 126 plants. Among the most eye-catch­ing are parafim­brios lao, a snake found in the lime­stone karsts of north­ern Laos whose scales re­flect rain­bow-like colours around its head. On the Thai tourist is­land of Phuket, which has seen huge devel­op­ment in re­cent decades, sci­en­tists found a lizard (acan­thosaura phuketen­sis) with a fear­some-look­ing ridge of horns down its head and back.

And in the coun­try’s north­ern Chi­ang Rai province re­searchers found a newt (ty­lo­totri­ton an­guli­ceps) with daz­zling red and black mark­ings that they likened to a Klin­gon’s head from the Star Trek fran­chise. In Cam­bo­dia and Viet­nam, a new frog species that could fit on a fin­ger tip was also dis­cov­ered. At 3cm long, lep­to­lalax isos, can fit on a fin­ger­tip. It was first spot­ted in 2006 but peer-re­viewed con­fir­ma­tion that it was in­deed a new species took nearly a decade. Be­tween 1997 and 2015 there have been 2,409 new species de­scribed in the Greater Mekong, the equiv­a­lent of two new dis­cov­er­ies a week. — AFP

— AFP

KARACHI: A Pak­istani health worker ad­min­is­ters polio vac­cine drops to a child dur­ing a door-to-door polio cam­paign in Karachi yes­ter­day. Pak­istan is one of only two coun­tries in the world where polio, a crip­pling child­hood dis­ease, re­mains en­demic.

—AFP

This hand­out from the WWF taken by Alexan­dre Teynie on May 11, 2013 and re­leased on De­cem­ber 19, 2016 shows a new species of snake called parafim­brios lao in Laos.

—AFP

This hand­out from the WWF taken by Jodi Row­ley on Oc­to­ber 3, 2013 and re­leased yes­ter­day shows a new species of frog called the lep­to­lalax isos in Virachey Na­tional Park, Cam­bo­dia.

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