Photo: REUTERS/L. Lee Grismer/WWF/Handout
A new report released Monday by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) details 208 new species, including plants, animals and fish, discovered in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia.
The specific region where the discoveries were made includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan in southwest China.
The list of new species features 145 plants, 28 reptiles, 25 fish, seven amphibians, two mammals, and a bird.
WWF's report highlights a monkey in Myanmar likened to Elvis Presley for its unique hairstyle. Based on local stories, the monkeys have an upturned nose that gets filled with water while it is raining, which causes them to sneeze. They have adapted a strategy to protect themselves from this inconvenience, by spending rainy periods with their heads tucked between their knees.
Although little is known about the monkey, it will be placed on the critically endangered list because of how small its range is and because hunters in the area are known to hunt it.
Stuart Chapman, the director of the WWF Greater Mekong Program, explained why recent conservation efforts have been focused on the region: "Biodiversity isn't evenly distributed around the planet -- some areas [are] more blessed than others," MSNBC reported. The Mekong area had also been off-limits to researchers for a long time due to political tensions.
A number of reptile species were also among the discoveries. They include an entirely female lizard species that survives without males, due to its ability to clone itself and reproduce without a partner.
A colorful psychedelic gecko was also photographed, as was a fish that looks like a gherkin. Five new species of carnivorous plants were documented, which have been known to eat small animals like birds and rats.
The exciting discoveries, however, also serve as reminders that such biodiverse regions need to be protected and are in danger of losing their natural environment if more is not done by governments to protect them, Chapman explained.
"The region's treasure trove of biodiversity will be lost if governments fail to invest in the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity, which is so fundamental to ensuring long-term sustainability in the face of global environmental change," the conservationist said.