2021 WWF World Wildlife Fund’s latest update on the Greater Mekong Region reveals 224 new species, including a ghostly white monkey with ghostly rings around its eyes.
Among the countries included in the report, which was released Wednesday, are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
Despite the fact that the species were discovered in 2020, the report for last year was delayed. There was only one new mammal, a new species of Popa langur found in Myanmar on the extinct Mt. Popa volcano.
Moreover, 155 plant species, including the only succulent bamboo species known to exist, were found in Laos, including dozens of newly identified reptiles, frogs, and newts.
As one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the Greater Mekong Region is home to tigers, Asian elephants, saolas – a rare animal also known as the Asian unicorn or spindle horn – and thousands of other species.
According to the 2021 WWF report, more than 3,000 new species have been identified in the region since 1997, including this latest list.
Researchers compared and identified key differences between newly discovered animals and plants using measurements and samples from museum collections, researchers said in a report.
2021 WWF Report finds more species
Thomas Ziegler, a curator at the University of Cologne’s Institute of Zoology, said the study could help determine the range of species and threats to their survival.
Identifying new species, however, can be tricky, and sometimes can only be accomplished using several methods, such as by analyzing frog calls or by using genetic data, as in the case of the Cardamom leaf little frog found in the Cardamom mountains in a wildlife refuge.
Several species are found in more than one country in 2021, such as the bright orange twin slug snake, which eats slugs.
Popa langur is the new monkey species found after comparing newly collected bones with specimens collected more than 100 years ago at Britain’s Natural History Museum, the report says. Its two most distinguishing characteristics were the broad white rings that surrounded its eyes and its forward-facing whiskers.
Using camera traps, the WWF and Fauna and Flora International captured images of the monkeys in 2018. FFI announced the discovery late last year.
Human encroachment on tropical forests
According to the 2021 WWF report, the monkey is a candidate to be listed on the IUCN’s Red List as a critically endangered species due to the fact that only 200-250 are thought to survive in the wild.
Also found in the uplands of Myanmar in 2021 was a reddish begonia shrub with a fruit resembling a berry. Illegal mining and logging have become a growing threat in a country undergoing political turmoil following a military takeover.
Despite human encroachment on tropical forests and other wild zones, much of the Greater Mekong remains unknown, and every year dozens of new species are discovered – a glimmer of hope as so many species disappear.
The discovery of new species is not exclusive to the jungle. The report said that one of the new plant species is a ginger plant that resembles the big beetles Thais use to make a kind of chilli dipping paste served with rice.
This plant was found in a plant shop in northeastern Thailand in 2021.
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