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 WWF reveals incredible new species

Wednesday 17 December 2008

forestMore than a thousand new species have been discovered over the last decade in Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong region – an incredible rate of two per week, WWF has revealed. The conservation group’s report - “First Contact in the Greater Mekong” –describes 1068 new species identified in the area between 1997 and 2007, including the world’s largest huntsman spider with a leg span of 30cm, and the Laotian rock rat which was believed to have been extinct 11 million years ago.

“This region is like what I read about as a child in the stories of Charles Darwin,” said Dr. Thomas Ziegler, Cologne Zoo curator. “It’s a great feeling being in an unexplored area and to document its biodiversity for the first time.”

The report focused on the six countries that the Mekong River flows through including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Chinese province of Yunnan. As well as the masses of new animal and plant species, it is estimated that thousands of new invertebrate species were also uncovered during the investigation.

“We thought discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books. This reaffirms the Greater Mekong’s place on the world map of conservation priorities,” added Stuart Chapman, Director of WWF’s Greater Mekong Programme. “To help protect the biological diversity of the region whilst also providing for livelihoods and alleviating poverty, economic development and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand. What is urgently needed is a formal, cross-border agreement by the governments of Greater Mekong.”

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