September 28, 2009—New species discovered along Asia's Mekong River in 2008—including a leopard gecko and a fanged frog that eats birds—are already under serious threat because of climate change, WWF says.
© 2009 National Geographic (AP)
Researchers working for the World Wildlife Fund have warned that the effects of climate change pose a serious threat to rare species of wildlife discovered within the past year in Southeast Asia, including a fanged frog and a leopard-striped gecko.
At a news conference in Bangkok, WWF researchers said that in 2008, scientists discovered 100 plants, 28 fish, 18 reptiles, 14 amphibians, 2 mammals and 1 bird species within the greater Mekong Region of Southeast Asia, which spans through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
They say rising seas, saltwater intrusion and extreme climate events caused by climate change threaten the species diverse habitat.
SOUNDBITE: (English) Geoff Blate, WWF, Climate Change Coordinator, Greater Mekong Program: "It's feared that many species will struggle to adapt to the new conditions. This is bad news for global biodiversity, and in fact a study a few years ago that was cited in the 2007 IPCC (UN's International Panel on Climate Change) report suggested that about 30 percent of species existing now could face extinction as a result of climate change by the end of this century."
Among least year's discoveries was a fanged frog, found in eastern Thailand. The frog lies in wait along streams for prey including birds and insects. Scientists believe it uses its fangs during combat with other males.
Another unusual discovery was the leopard gecko. It has orange-brown cat-like eyes, and leopard stripes down the length of its body.
SOUNDBITE: (English) Stuart Chapman, WWF, Director, Greater Mekong Program: "In some cases, species are found in remote, difficult-to-access locations, and the Cat Ba leopard gecko is one of those examples. It's found on a small island off the coast of Vietnam and is an example of how a species can adapt to very specific local conditions."
The discoveries have been published in various journals over the period, and the WWF compiled the findings to publicize what it says could otherwise go unnoticed.
The WWF called for efforts to ensure the new species are protected, by preserving their habitat and the river networks that are a foundation of the region's ecosystem.