The World Wildlife Fund has reported that researchers have found hundreds of newly discovered species in remote areas of the world that were previously inaccessible to humans. The discoveries included 380 new species of vertebrates, plants, and animals, such as lizards that change colors, moss-covered frogs, thick-thumbed bats, and a viper named after a Chinese goddess. The discoveries were made in the greater Mekong region of Asia, which encompasses Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Many of the species were found in the forests of the mountains around the Mekong River, which have remained inaccessible due to a lack of roads. Conservation biologists assert that this inaccessibility has allowed these species to thrive.
The report states that hundreds of scientists from universities, conservation groups, and research institutes around the globe discovered 290 plant species, 19 fish species, and 24 fish species in the greater Mekong region. The region is home to nearly 4,000 vascular plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals that have been discovered since 1997. Recent new discoveries include highly venomous snakes, geckos, a semi-aquatic snake, and the blue-crested agama, an aggressive lizard that changes color.
Moreover, despite the discovery of new species, researchers have expressed concern that some of the newly discovered species are at risk due to human activities such as logging and development projects, as well as traditional medicinal practices. For instance, in Thailand and Vietnam, the alligator newt is under threat from deforestation and traditional medicine consumption. Similarly, construction projects have also fragmented gecko species. In Laos, Vientiane’s capital has become a new habitat for newts.
Conservation efforts are needed to protect the newly discovered species from the threats and to prevent them from going extinct. The Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology Ecobiological Resources Institute researcher Truong Nguyen recommends the increased use of new technologies such as bioacoustics and gene sequencing to help scientists discover more species and to implement conservation measures. Additionally, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the general public must take urgent action to prevent the rapid biodiversity loss in the region.