99 new species found in Vietnam: WWF

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Helen’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus helenae) that was discovered outside Ho Chi Minh City. Photo credit: Australian Museum Helen’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus helenae) that was discovered outside Ho Chi Minh City. Photo credit: Australian Museum

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Ninety-nine flora and fauna species were discovered in Vietnam, accounting for a fourth of all new species found in the Greater Mekong Subregion in 2012-2013, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
One of them is the huge green Helen’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus helenae) discovered less than 100 kilometers from the country’s busiest metropolis Ho Chi Minh City, WWF said in a report published Wednesday.
The frog can grow to almost 10 centimeters in length and belongs to the gliding group.
It can glide up to 15 meters from tree to tree, or down from trees to breed in pools, thanks to large webbed feet and flaps of webbing outside it arms.
The WWF report said the frogs likely spend most of their time in the forest canopy and thus stayed out of human sight until now.
So far the frog has only been found in two patches of lowland forest surrounded by agricultural land in the southern provinces of Binh Thuan and Dong Nai.
Since lowland forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world, largely because they are so accessible, the new frog is already under great threat from ongoing habitat loss and degradation.
WWF said the frog is likely to be listed as a threatened species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
A total of 367 discoveries were made in 2012 and 2013 but it took time to analyze and describe them.
Vietnam has the third largest number of new species in the list, after Thailand (117) and China (116). Cambodia has 13, Laos 32, and Myanmar 26. Some species are distributed in more than one country.
Dr Thomas Gray, Manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Program, said in a report on WWF website that the discoveries “affirm the Greater Mekong as one of the world’s richest and most biodiverse regions.”
He said it’s critical that governments invest in conservation strategies to help protect these new creatures and allow researchers to find new ones.
Bat, gecko, penis-head fish
Among the newly-found species, the hunch-bat Hipposideros griffini, better known as Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat, has a peculiar nose that may assist it in echolocation to navigate. 
It was found at 248 meters above sea level in Cat Ba National Park on Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam. Its habitat is primary forests.
It was first seen in 2008, but a team of researchers led by Dr Vu Dinh Thong from the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources in Hanoi only decided that it had never been documented after catching some of the bats later in 2012.
It was named in honor of the late Donald Redfield Griffin (1915–2003), a pioneer in the field of bat echolocation research, of Rockefeller University in New York.
Cat Ba Island was also where scientists discovered a rare leopard gecko (Goniurosaurus catbaensis) which has large eyes like cats’ and stripes along its length. It lives in moist tropical forests.
The list includes 21 new amphibians, 24 fishes, 28 reptiles, one bird, three mammals, and 290 new plants, like the salmon orchird (Bulbophyllum salmoneum), named for the resemblance, found at 400-800 metres above sea level in a mountain range on the border between Vietnam and Laos.
The WWF report also mentioned the discovery of the “penis head” fish (Phallostethus cuulong) in the slow-flowing shallow waters around banks of canals and rivers in Soc Trang and Tra Vinh Provinces in the Mekong Delta, which is known as Cuu Long in local language.
The thin, nearly transparent fish has the sex organ located underneath its chin on the male body, and at the throat at the female one.
Unlike a lot of fish, its fertilization takes place inside the female’s body.
A walking snakehead fish (Channa longistomata) was discovered in Ha Nam Province outside Hanoi.
It is able to breath atmospheric air and can survive on land for up to four days, as long as it stays wet. It can writhe and wriggle to move up to a quarter of a mile on wet land.
The new discoveries added to 2,077 species discovered in the region since 1997.

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