A WWF report reveals a variety of new species found in 2016 in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (all part of the Mekong River basin).
The 115 new species described include three mammals, 11 amphibians, two fish, 11 reptiles and 88 plants.
While the majority of the species were found in the wild, the snail eating turtle was actually discovered in a local market after being caught in a nearby canal by shopkeepers.
The snail eating turtle (Malayemys isan) was discovered in a local market. © Montri Sumontha
“More than two new species a week, and 2,500 in the past 20 years, speaks to how incredibly important the Greater Mekong is,” says Stuart Chapman from WWF-Greater Mekong.
In Myanmar, a country opening up to exploration, scientists found a frog and four plant species, and believe that there could be hundreds more undiscovered species.
Wildlife across the Greater Mekong region is under pressure from a range of human causes, including the development of mines, roads and dams; poaching for bushmeat and the illegal wildlife trade.
This mole (Euroscaptor orlovi) was one of three new mammal species found in the region. © Alexei Abramov
“The species in the Greater Mekong deserve protection from unscrupulous collectors who are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species,” says Chapman.
“Golden Triangle markets operate with impunity in open view, so it is critical that governments in the region improve enforcement against poaching and close illegal wildlife markets, including notorious tiger and bear farms.”
Main image: Shinisaurus crcodilurus vietnamensis lizard, discovered in Greater Mekong in 2016. © Thomas Ziegler