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Myanmar boasts flower, fauna never known to science

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Two dozen species of plants and animals new to science have been identified in Myanmar as the country emerges from almost half a century of isolation under military rule, scientists say.

The plants and animals newly identified in Myanmar in just the past two years highlights the need for conservation efforts to protect the flora and fauna in the country renown for its biologically diversity, the World Wildlife Fund said.

As Myanmar develops its economy and begins to allow foreign investment, it will begin to experience the possible detrimental effects to its environment already common in neighboring countries, including deforestation, mining and hydropower development, experts warn.

Win Myo Thu, a co-founder of EcoDev, a local environmental group, expressed his concern.

"Unfortunately, no one is paying attention to protecting biodiversity," he said. "They say OK, we will do this or that, but on ground it's an entirely different story."

Although a number of the country's national parks have protected status, that's just on paper and enforcement is practically nonexistent.

Scientists will have to hurry to identify species that may already be under pressure, Win Myo Thu said, calling them the country's "biotreasures."

"There is a huge, huge knowledge gap," he said, citing as main reason the long period when Myanmar was isolated from the rest of the world. "The more research that is done, the more species we are going to find."

Among the new species found in the country is a type of dragon fish, or arowana, a species popular with tropical fish hobbyists.

Aquarium enthusiasts have been lighting up the blogosphere with word of the new "scribbled arowana" with its complex maze-like markings featured on each individual scale.

In a mountain range that stretches along Myanmar's western border, scientists have found a frog with rough, chocolate-colored skin.

And a ginger plant "hiding" in plain site in local markets has been identifies in its native habitat, a single region of cloud forests in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine.

Myanmar shares its borders with India, Thailand, China, Bangladesh and Loas, and a third of its 1,200-mile perimeter is coastline on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

Its land area of 261,277 square miles makes it the second largest country in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

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