Discovery of new species in Vietnam prompts calls for conservation

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A tree frog that sings like a bird found in northern Vietnam

World conservationists have discovered dozens of new species in Vietnam last year, including walking catfish, a ruby-eyed green pit viper, and a frog that sings like a bird, the World Wildlife Fund said in a Tuesday report.

The report, "Extra Terrestrial," listed 126 new discoveries made in the Greater Mekong Delta region that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern province of Yunnan in China, including 36 from Vietnam. The region encompasses diverse landscapes, from dusty savannahs to dense rainforests, and from slow-moving rivers to icy torrents. The newly identified species includes 82 plants, 21 reptiles, 13 fish and five amphibians and mammals each.

In the high-altitude forests of northern Vietnam, experts discovered a new species of tree frog that has a complex call that more closely resembles the sounds of birds rather than typical frogs.

The frog spins a new tune each time, mixing clicks, whistles and chirps in a unique order.

Experts also found another frog species with uniquely colored eyes - Leptobrachium leucops in the wet evergreen forest in the south. Its eyes are half black and half white.

The Beelzebub tube-nosed bat, named for its demonic appearance, is also on the list. The bat, only known to exist in Vietnam, depends on tropical forest for its survival but the WWF surveys found that 30 percent of the Greater Mekong's forests have disappeared over the past 40 years.

The ruby-eyed green pit viper (Trimeresurus rubeus) was found in forests near Ho Chi Minh City. It also moves to the low hills of southern Vietnam and through the Langbian Plateau in the Central Highlands.


A new catfish species, Clarias gracilentus, discovered on the southern island of Phu Quoc, is able to move across land using its pectoral fins to stay upright as it wiggles forward.

"While the 2011 discoveries affirms the Mekong as a region of astonishing biodiversity, many new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats," Nick Cox, Manager of the WWF-Greater Mekong's Species Program, said in the report.

He called for investments in protected areas and the development of greener economies to protect the new species and give scientists the chance to find other species in the future.

The manager said the region's wildlife is facing a threat from the recent decision of Laos's government to construct the Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River, which supports around 850 fish species and the world's most intensive inland fishery.

"The Mekong River supports levels of aquatic biodiversity second only to the Amazon River," Cox said.

"The Xayaburi dam would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signaling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered."

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