Sneez­ing mon­key and ‘walk­ing’ fish among species found in Hi­malayas


A mon­key that sneezes when it rains and a “walk­ing” fish are among more than 200 species dis­cov­ered in the eco­log­i­cally frag­ile eastern Hi­malayas in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to con­ser­va­tion group WWF.

WWF has com­piled a sur­vey of wildlife dis­cov­ered by sci­en­tists across Bhutan, north­east In­dia, Nepal, north­ern Myan­mar and south­ern Ti­bet, in an at­tempt to raise aware­ness of the threats fac­ing the sen­si­tive re­gion.

The species in­clude what the WWF de­scribed as a blue-col­ored “walk­ing snake­head fish” that can breathe air, sur­vive on land for four days and slither up to 400 me­ters (a quar­ter of a mile) on wet ground.

Oth­ers in­clude an or­nate red, yel­low and or­ange pit viper that could pass for a piece of jew­elry, a fresh­wa­ter “drac­ula” fish with fangs and three new types of bananas.

In the forests of north­ern Myan­mar, sci­en­tists learned in 2010 of a black and white mon­key with an up­turned nose that causes it to sneeze when it rains.

On rainy days they of­ten sit with their heads tucked be­tween their knees to avoid get­ting wa­ter in their snub noses.

The 211 new species dis­cov­ered be­tween 2009 and 2014 in­clude 133 plants in­clud­ing or­chids, 26 kinds of fish, 10 am­phib­ians, 39 in­ver­te­brates, one reptile, one bird and a mam­mal.

‘Unique trea­sure house’

Di­pankar Ghose, WWF di­rec­tor of species and land­scapes in In­dia, de­scribed the re­gion as a “unique trea­sure house” that has not yet been fully ex­plored by sci­en­tists.

In its re­port WWF said the re­gion, home to Mount Ever­est, is rugged with vast forests, rivers and streams pro­tected by moun­tain ranges, mean­ing species have evolved and sur­vived un­no­ticed for cen­turies.

“Some (species) are so unique and charis­matic that sci­en­tists are of­ten at a loss as to how to clas­sify them,” said the re­port re­leased this week.

But WWF warned of a se­ries of threats to the re­gion in­clud­ing pop­u­la­tion growth, de­for­esta­tion, over­graz­ing, poach­ing, min­ing and hy­dropower de­vel­op­ment.

Just 25 per­cent of its orig­i­nal habi­tats re­main in­tact and hun­dreds of species are con­sid­ered to be glob- ally threat­ened, the re­port said.

“The chal­lenge is to pre­serve our threat­ened ecosys­tems be­fore these species, and oth­ers yet un­known, are lost,” said Sami Tornikoski, who heads the WWF Liv­ing Hi­malayas Ini­tia­tive.

The re­port calls for more sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, sin­gling out a need for greener hy­dropower plants and gov­ern­ment help for com­mu­ni­ties to adapt to cli­mate change.

Ghose urged a whole-gov­ern­ment ap­proach, and stressed the need for ad­min­is­tra­tions across the re­gion to work to­gether to strike a bal­ance be­tween de­vel­op­ment and con­ser­va­tion.

“The forestry depart­ment alone for ex­am­ple can­not han­dle this. It takes co­or­di­na­tion across mul­ti­ple ar­eas of gov­ern­ment,” he told AFP on Tues­day.

“Coun­tries also need to work to­gether to pro­tect the im­mense bio­di­ver­sity that the re­gion holds.”

Bhutan Agri­cul­ture and Forests Min­is­ter Yeshey Dorji warned of the im­pact of cli­mate change, with tem­per­a­ture in­creases hit­ting hard the Hi­malayas, which are a “life­line to mil­lions of peo­ple and are crit­i­cal to the economies of the coun­tries that share the re­gion.”

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