A Klingon-like lizard, a woolly-headed bat and a snake that looks like Ziggy Stardust were among the many new species discovered by researchers in the Greater Mekong in 2015.
The WWF’s annual Species Oddity report lists 9 amphibians, 11 fish, 126 plants and 3 mammals documented in the region for the first time last year. Vietnam had the most new discoveries, at 87.
“It is a small stepping stone to the living heritage of humanity. A small but bright spot for understanding the history of populations, the evolution of life, and a sense of humility before our ignorance” said researcher Alexandre Teynié.
Teynié’s team discovered the species Parafimbrios lao, a rainbow-headed snake that reminded them of David Bowie’s alter ego, while exploring karst cliffs in Laos.
He added: “If the spirit of the forest exists, it is at these times that one feels humbly crossed.”
Weaving 4,350 km through six countries, and surrounded by jungles, rainforests, wetlands and caves, the Mekong is home to a rich collection of ecosystems and rare species, including the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. The river also helps to sustains millions of people who rely on the river for fish and other food resources.
However, a series of dam building projects pose a serious threat to the survival of these ecosystems and conservationists fear that many newly discovered species could soon be lost forever.
“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,” said Borah, Wildlife Programme Manager for the Greater Mekong at WWF.
“These scientists, the unsung heroes of the Planet, know they are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected and saved.”