Rainbow snake, tiny frog among new Mekong species

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BANGKOK: A rainbow-headed snake, a tiny frog and a lizard with dragon-like horns are among more than 150 new species confirmed by scientists last year in the ecologically diverse but threatened Mekong region, researchers said on Monday.

Winding its way from the Tibetan plateau through the mountains and jungles of Southeast Asia, the Mekong river helps sustain one of the most diverse regions on the planet.

Each year scientists announce new species, after an often lengthy identification process, highlighting how much more there is to learn about the region.

But there are fears many species may die out before even being discovered in an area of the world that is rapidly developing, where rule of law is notoriously shaky and wildlife smuggling rampant.

“The Greater Mekong region is a magnet for the world’s conservation scientists because of the incredible diversity of species that continue to be discovered here,” Jimmy Borah, from WWF’s Greater Mekong team said.

“They are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected.”

The Greater Mekong region — which includes southwestern China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar — is under intense pressure from dam and road building as well as a thriving illegal wildlife trade, much of it centred around the lawless Golden Triangle area where the latter three meet.