Mekong region as a species smithy

WWF: Discovered over 1, 000 new species of animals and plants

Gumprecht's green pitviper (Trimeresurus gumprechti) © Rene Ries / WWF
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In the years 1997 to 2007, a total of 1, 000 new species were discovered in the catchment area of ​​the lower Mekong. This is reported by a recent WWF report, which presents numerous new descriptions for the first time with film and photo recordings. Including 15 mammals, such as the Laotian rock rat (Laonastes aenigmamus).

The squirrel-like animal was previously thought to be extinct for 11 million years. Until it was rediscovered by researchers at a food market in Laos. Shortly thereafter followed the first sighting in the wild.

For the first time, the Truong-Son Muntjak, a hitherto unknown deer species, and the Annamite Striped Rabbit (Nesolagus timminsi) were described in the study "First Contact in the Greater Mekong". Among the newly identified species are also found the world's largest hunter spider (Heteropoda maxima), the cyanide-producing dragon centipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea) or Gumprecht's green pitviper (Trimeresurus gumprechti).

Region with enormous biodiversity

"It's an indescribable feeling to be in the area. You can feel a bit about how the explorers and explorers of the 19th century must have felt, "says Petr Obrdlik, WWF's Greater Mekong Region spokesman covering Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and China, In total, 1, 068 species, including 519 plants, 88 spiders, 279 fish, 91 amphibians (including 88 frogs), 72 reptiles (including 22 snakes), four birds and 15 mammals have been described for the first time in the past ten years.

"So far, we assumed that such an incredible amount of new discoveries is no longer possible. The biodiversity of the region is enormous, "says Stuart Chapman, WWF Director of the Greater Mekong Program. "We can only guess how many animals and plants are still waiting to be discovered. But we run the risk that many species disappear before they are even described, "warns WWF speaker Obrdlik. display

Habitat in danger

For example, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has certified the coastal states of the lower Mekong a tremendous economic potential - combined with considerable population growth. Already today, the Six-Country-Corner is considered not only by ecologists, but also by economists as one of the "last borders". According to WWF data, 2.7 million hectares of jungle in Southeast Asia have since 1990 been replaced by monocultures of huge plantations, where cocoa, coffee, tea, cashew nuts or rubber are cultivated. In addition, around 150 large hydropower plants are to be built on the Mekong.

Already today, 70 percent of the endemic mammal species are on the IUCN Red List, including the Indo-Chinese Tiger, the Java Rhino or the Asian Elephant. The measure of overfishing is also worrying, according to the WWF. The Environmental Foundation calls for a cross-border commitment to the protection of the unique ecosystem. The goal is to protect a 600, 000 square kilometer area.

(WWF, 16.12.2008 - DLO)