In a big boost to the wildlife, Greater Mekong region in the Southeast Asia has made a cheering discovery of nearly 163 new species including a rainbow-headed snake and a dragon-like lizard.

According to the report by conservation group World Wildlife Fund, Species Oddity, the new discovery in 2015 included nine amphibians, 14 reptiles, 11 fish, 126 plants and three mammals in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Among the new discoveries, mention must be made of a gecko in Laos with pale blue skin and a ctritically endangered rare banana species in northern Thailand.

Magnet Of Conservationists

 "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," said Jimmy Borah, wildlife program manager for WWF-Greater Mekong.

Home to world's most endangered species, Mekong, according to Borah, is a glimmer of hope even as extinction rates are increasing at an alarming rate.

The Greater Mekong region keeps reminding there are many incredible, unexplored areas, leading to new discoveries and is crucial that they are protected before they are lost, added Borah.

Calling the scientists unsung heroes of conservation, Borah said they are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected.

Vast Bio Diversity

Passing some of the most biodiverse lands on earth, Mekong river, after starting from Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau of China, flows to Southern Vietnam and empties into the South China Sea. It is considered the backbone of the region thanks to the diverse wildlife and ecosystems.

When classified, the new discovery includes 9 amphibians, 11 fish, 14 reptiles, 126 plants and 3 mammals. So far, Greater Mekong has unveiled 2,409 new species between 1997 and 2015.

Depleting Wild Life

The WWF is already on record that by 2020, fish, birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles will decline by two-thirds. The threat from illegal wildlife trade in Greater Mekong is also substantial.

Despite the vigil, many collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars for rare, unique and endangered species and buying them at illegal wildlife markets, noted Borah.

Improving enforcement against poaching and shutting down illegal wildlife markets has assumed a matter of grave urgency.

The newly discovered newt, Tylototriton anguliceps from Thailand's Chiang Rai Province, resembles a Klingon in the movie Star Trek, thanks to the amazingly red and black markings. Sensitive to pesticides, because of porous skin, the newt faces an existential threat from deforestation.

Faced with extreme development pressure from mines to dams, the Mekong region's natural landscapes are under heavy stress.

Adding to it is the menace of poaching for bush meat and multi-billion illegal wildlife trade. The scenario is such that many species would be wiped out even before they are even discovered.

WWF Concern On Swordfish

Meanwhile, the WWF urged 48 fishing nations to end overfishing of the Mediterranean swordfish and announce recovery plans to end the annihilation of the species.

At an international conference in Vilamoura, Portugal in November, countries, which are members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) such as the United States, Japan, and the European Union (EU) agreed to deliberate on schemes to manage key species such as bluefin tuna, Mediterranean swordfish, and sharks.

 "The future of the Mediterranean swordfish is seriously at risk," said Giuseppe Di Carlo, WWF Director for Mediterranean Marine Initiative.

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