70 new species of plants, animals discovered in Vietnam in 2014: WWF report

They are among 139 new species found by the World Wide Fund for Nature in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region last year

Discoverer Joachim Bresseel holds the world's second-longest insect, called Phryganistria heusii yentuensis, found in the small town of Tam Dao in the north of Vietnam in 2014.

Seventy new species of plants and animals were discovered in Vietnam in 2014, including color-changing thorny frogs, fanged bats, and the world’s second-longest insect (Phryganistria heusii yentuensis), according to a newly released report of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Those species, many of which are endangered, are among 139 new species that were discovered by the WWF in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region last year, as shown by the Magical Mekong - New Species Discoveries 2014 report unveiled in Vietnam on Thursday by the fund.

The Greater Mekong Sub-Region covers most countries and territories located along the Mekong River, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and China’s Yunnan Province.

The newly discovered species are comprised of 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 16 amphibians, nine fish, and one mammal, 70 of which were found in Vietnam, the report said.

With the new discoveries counted, the number of new species found in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region in the 1997-2014 period totaled 2,216 species, according to the 12-page report.

Van Ngoc Thinh, country director of WWF Vietnam, told government website chinhphu.vn that Vietnam has huge potential in species diversity, including some of the most unique in the world.

Such potential value in biodiversity needs intensive research for preservation purposes, he said.

However, according to experts, as soon as they are discovered, those species face great dangers. So, it is essential for Vietnam to continue commitments to protect important habitats for wildlife.

According to Thinh, WWF Vietnam will focus on effective conservation, sustainable management, and adaptation to climate change in Vietnam for the next five years, while making important environmental strategy esteem and contributing to conservation and sustainable development for the natural environment for wildlife in the country.

WWF works with governments and businesses to create a sustainable future for the Greater Mekong based on healthy, functioning ecosystems, it said in a press release for the Magical Mekong - New Species Discoveries 2014 report.

“We are spearheading efforts to protect species, helping businesses develop sustainable supply chains, encouraging sustainable forestry and non-timber forest product management, helping communities and governments adapt to climate change, and promoting the sustainable use of freshwater resources,” the Switzerland-based organization said.

“Scientific exploration has an important role to play in the future of the Mekong region, and fascinating new species like the ones discovered in 2014 can draw more conservation attention to the region, while a thorough understanding of the patterns and distribution of biodiversity can help direct conservation resources to the highest priority areas,” it said.

The Greater Mekong is one of the top five threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world, according to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, WWF said in its report.

Hydropower developments threaten the integrity of the Mekong River, the WWF commented in the report.

Later this year, construction of the Xayaburi Dam in Laos will block the lower Mekong River for the first time, disrupting the free flow of fish and sediment.

Communities downstream have vocally protested against Xayaburi and the impending construction of the Don Sahong dam near the border of Cambodia, one of an additional 11 planned mainstream dams that would irrevocably transform the Mekong.

Roads and other planned infrastructure developments through the region’s wilderness areas will fragment habitats and provide access to saola and other endangered species.

Climate change only increases the pressures on the landscapes through rising temperatures, rising sea level, and more extreme storms, droughts and floods.

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