Nineteen new animals were found in Vietnam in 2009, all of them with the help of foreign scientists or by them.
Most of the animals are endemic in Vietnam. They live in diverse habitats including coral reefs, streams, forests, caves and mountains.
A prominent new find is the snake jointly discovered by Vietnamese scientist Nguyen Van Sang - Coluberoelaps nguyenvansangisp. (nov. Orlov, Kharin, Ananjeva, Nguyen & Nguyen, 2009). Russian scientists helped find the snake in Loc Bac forest in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong.
The snake is harmless, around 500mm long and belongs to a species called Coluberoelaps. It has characters of both Coluber and Elaps snakes.
Another discovery that attracted a lot of attention was the discovery of a lizard with leaf-shaped legs called Aaron Bauer, or officially, Dixonius aaronbaueri (Ngo & Ziegler, 2009) at Nui Chua National Park in the south central province of Ninh Thuan. German scientists helped in this case.
It was the smallest lizard in Indochina with the head just 34mm long. Its ideal habitat is dry leaf layers on the ground of semi-arid land like in Nui Chua.
Scientists from the US, Australia, China and France helped in other discoveries.
The new species have been introduced through articles in 14 international journals, but only four of them were co-authored by Vietnamese authors and none of them had Vietnamese scientists as sole authors.
We need foreign help because our budget for scientific research is small. Some Vietnamese scientists have had to use their own money to further their research. They couldn't afford to subscribe to foreign scientific documents.
So animals living in Vietnam have to bear foreign names. And the pride of finding them goes to the foreigners as well.
But many other species remain undiscovered. And there are still many chances of discovery by Vietnamese scientists in 2010, the World Biodiversity Year.
We do need to ask ourselves: Why do we have scientists from elsewhere making the discoveries when we are not short of talented and enthusiastic scientists and the work is carried out in our own country?
By Ngo Van Tri, a researcher who jointly discovered Indochina's smallest lizard with leaf-shaped legs that has been named Aaron Bauer (Source: Saigon Tiep Thi)