Scientists discover 380 new species in lower Mekong

An aggressive color-changing lizard, a poisonous snake named after a goddess in Chinese mythology and an orchid that looks like a muppet among hundreds of unique species of plants and animals newly discovered in the lower Mekong region in the past two years, a new report released on Monday said.

Hundreds of scientists from across the globe discovered 175 new species in 2021 and 205 in 2022 in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to the report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

“These remarkable species may be new to science, but they have survived and evolved in the Greater Mekong region for millions of years, reminding us humans that they were there a very long time before our species moved into this region,” said K. Yoganand, WWF-Greater Mekong regional wildlife lead.

“We have an obligation to do everything to stop their extinction and protect their habitats, and help their recovery.”

The newly declared species include a thick-thumbed, mouse-eared bat, whose specimen sat in a Hungarian museum for 20 years. Another one highlighted in the report is a plant collected in the 1930s but only recently confirmed to be a novel species by a new team of researchers.

Several other new species are at risk from human activities. A Cambodian casino, dam and residential development are destroying an evergreen shrub, while a Thai crocodile newt in Vietnam is threatened by agricultural encroachment, logging and local collection for medicinal purposes.

In total, they discovered 290 plants, 19 fish, 24 amphibians, 46 reptiles and one mammal in the past two years, bringing the total number of new species in the lower Mekong region to 3,389 since 1997, when WWF started collecting new species data.

The report comes on Biodiversity Day, which the United Nations promotes to increase understanding and awareness of global biodiversity issues.

According to a 2011 study, about 8.7 million species are on Earth, while only 1.6 million have been identified, meaning that more than 80 percent of species have yet to be discovered.

The wildlife conservation group also called on the governments to increase protection for rare creatures and their habitats, with many species already threatened with extinction due to human activities.

The new species are “under intense pressure from deforestation, habitat degradation, road development, loss of streams and rivers, pollution, diseases spread by human activities, competition from invasive species, and the devastating impacts of illegal wildlife trade,” WWF said.

“Sadly, many species go extinct before they are even discovered.”

A senior Vietnamese scientist said discoveries of new species help fill the knowledge gap about what exists in the natural world.

“They also fill us, the researchers, with wonder and trepidation – wonder that there are still countless species yet to be found, and trepidation that there isn’t enough time to find, understand and conserve them,” said Truong Q. Nguyen, vice director at the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.

“The Greater Mekong region is recognized as a biodiversity hotspot – also known as the Indo-Burma hotspot,” Nguyen said in the report’s foreword.

The region is home to globally iconic and endangered species, including the tiger, the Asian elephant, the Sunda pangolin, and the giant freshwater stingray.

However, the region’s biodiversity is “facing tremendous pressures from economic development and human population growth, which drive deforestation, pollution and overexploitation of natural resources, compounded by the effects of climate change,” he said.

Here are some of the discovered species:


Calotes goetzi, 2021

The Cambodian blue-crested agama (also known as the Siamese blue-crested lizard) is an aggressive lizard that changes color as a defensive mechanism. It is a vigorous climber and feeds primarily on insects. It was identified by studying lizards found near an Angkor archeological site. It is also found in China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.


Dendrobium fuscifaucium, 2022

A bright miniature pink and yellow orchid that resembles television character muppets, it was discovered in a market selling wild plants in capital Vientiane. Attempts to find it in the wild have been unsuccessful, according to researchers. Globally, it is estimated that 1.1 billion live orchid plants were traded mostly legally between 1996 and 2015. However, some species face threats due to trafficking and overharvesting from the wild.

Dixonius somchanhae, 2021

Endemic to Laos, this new gecko species was discovered in a forested area near Huaysorn-Huaysua village in Vientiane. It is named after Somchanh Bounphanmy, an associate professor of the National University of Laos who supported the authors’ research. WWF said it is found at night on sandstone rocks, where they live in secondary forests affected by construction projects. It has not been seen elsewhere.


Dario tigris, 2022

A miniature chameleon fish, able to change their color, barely 20 millimeters (three-quarters of an inch) long, is recognized by its striking orange-red stripes, earning its name tiger. It was first found in the mountain streams of the Ayeyarwady River basin in northern Myanmar in 2002, but it was deemed a distinct species only last year.

Ptyctolaemus Chindwinesis, 2021

This new lizard species is only the third species of this genus to be described, with the first being identified in 1864 and the other in 2004. It was first found in 2019 in the Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary, Sagaing division, and named after the Chindwin River. It is found only in Myanmar and can change its body colour.


Ansonia karen, 2021

This new species of endemic stream toad is named for the local indigenous Karen people, who supported the researchers during field surveys. It was found in the Tennaserim mountains in western Thailand’s Ratchaburi province. It is found only in Thailand; a sister species is found in Myanmar, some 350 kilometers away.

Akysis patrator

This catfish, some of the smallest in the category, measuring less than 60 millimeters, was collected during a survey along with the Karen people in the Roh Kee River in western Thailand, which eventually flows into the Mae Klong River. It is the first fish in the Akysis genus to be recorded in the Mae Klong basin. To date, it is considered endemic to the Roh Kee River.


Theloderma khoii, 2022

This camouflaging green frog uses its mossy, irregular ridges and warts on its skin to blend into the lichen and wet dark background. It was found only in the deep narrow valleys within the forested limestone mountains of northeastern Vietnam, which has more species of mossy frogs – 17 – than any other country. It is just 5-6 centimeters long and was named in honor of Professor Le Vu Khoi from the Hanoi University of Science.

Subdoluseps vietnamensis, 2021

This new skink was discovered in forested areas around acacia and rubber plantations in southern Vietnam’s Ba Ria Vung Tao and Bin Thuan provinces. It burrows under the sand to evade predators and escape from fires, hence the name Vietnamese agile skink. It was first collected in 2017 and is an endemic species with a narrow distribution in the coastal lowlands.

Source: Radio Free Asia


The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar today launched KPJ Healthcare’s (KPJ) latest flagship hospital, the Damansara Specialist Hospital 2 (DSH2), here.

DSH2 opened its doors in September last year with the aim to provide state-of-the-art medical facilities as well as treatment using cutting-edge medical equipment.

The hospital currently operates 60 hospital beds and there are plans to expand it to 120 by the end of the year.

Sultan Ibrahim arrived at noon today to officiate DSH2, which is the 29th hospital operated by KPJ, mainly owned by the Johor Corporation (JCorp) as the group’s largest shareholder.

Also present were Johor Menteri Besar who is also JCorp chairman Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi, Johor State Secretary Tan Sri Dr Azmi Rohani, Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Kamarulzaman Mat Salleh and JCorp president and chief executive Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency


All Malaysians should make the value of unity as the major asset for the nation’s future, said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

According to His Majesty, the people should also reduce differences among themselves by bridging the gaps of race and religion.

“Like the proverb, charity begins at home, so it is appropriate for me to state here that indeed unity begins at home in our country,” he said when officiating the national level National Unity Week celebration here, today.

Earlier, His Majesty’s arrival at 11 am was greeted by the Yang Dipertua of Sarawak Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Also on hand to receive Al-Sultan Abdullah were Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof.

At the same event, Al-Sultan Abdullah also launched a unity theme song that combines the various dialects in Malaysia entitled Setia Perpaduan.

Unity Week 2023, which will take place from May 20 to 28, will also be held in 15 locations across the country including Bertam Square, Penang; Papar Community Hall, Sabah; Dataran Tasik Kluang, Johor and Pantai Balok Recreation Centre, Kuantan, Pahang.

With the theme of ‘Unity in Diversity’, the main objective of organising Unity Week is to foster the spirit of unity and spread knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the diversity of customs and cultures in the Malaysian community.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency


About 500 Orang Asli residents in Kampung Pasir Linggi and Kampung Machang in Pos Lebir here have been suffering from water shortages for three weeks.

The residents claimed that the problem is caused by tap water reservoir supply, which keeps drying up due to the hot weather, making supply insufficient for daily use.

A resident, Amoi Latif, 55, said the situation has forced her to fetch water every day from the river, which is more than 500 metres away from her settlement.

“For three weeks we have been struggling with the problem, there is no water during the day and water only comes at night around midnight or 1 am. “At midnight, we usually fetch water for cooking but it is still not enough because we do not have a big barrel (to store water,” she said when met by reporters in Kampung Pasir Linggi, Pos Lebir.

Kampung Pasir Linggi headman, Harun Ismail, said that the problem has worsened due to the increasing number of residents, but the water reservoir has not been developed according to the needs of the residents.

“There are residents who have to walk up to an hour to fetch water and even have to bathe in the murky Sungai Lebir because they have no other choice.

“The pipe water reservoir is not enough to meet the needs of our nearly 500 residents,” he said.

Meanwhile., Kelantan Agriculture, Agro-based industry, Biotechnology, Green Technology and Environment Committee chairman Tuan Mohd Saripudin Tuan Ismail said the state government views seriously the water shortage issue faced by the Orang Asli in the two villages.

“We will find ways to resolve the situation, among others place a bigger water tank or expand the water supply reservoir. I will raise their request through the Kelantan Water Supply Department so we can see how we can help solve this water supply problem,” he said.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency


We have been conquering Mount Everest, but this year Everest beats us,” said the national solo climber, T Ravichandran tearfully on recalling his experience with the late Lt Col Awang Askandar Ampuan Yaacub and on hearing disabled climber Muhammad Hawari Hashim who was reported missing.

Awang Askandar, 56, was confirmed dead on Friday (May 19) after falling in his climb to the peak of Mount Everest while Muhammad Hawari, 33, was feared lost in Mt Everest area when descending from Camp 4 after reaching the peak of world’s highest mountain at 8,848 metres.

“This year is the second time we met in the mission to conquer Mount Everest. This time I was in front of them and I also faced tough challenges of extreme weather in my descent from Mount Everest,” he told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), here today, upon arrival from the 2023 Himalayan Sports Everest-Lhotse Expedition.

According to Ravichandran on May 17, he managed to reach the top of Mount Everest and waved the Jalur Gemilang and sponsor’s flag on the mountain before descending from Mount Everest on May 18 to capture Mount Lhotse (the fourth highest mountain in the world at a height of 8,516 metres) but he had to be rescued and taken to Kathmandu for treatment due frostbite on a finger.

For Ravichandran, 58, the mission with the Himalayan Sports Everest-Lhotse Expedition 2023 was to set a record as the first Malaysian climber to conquer the summit of Mount Lhotse after raising the flag at the peak of Mount Everest within 24 hours.

The success of conquering Mount Everest this time is the fourth time for Ravichandran.

Regarding the fate of the two Malaysian climbers, Ravichandran said: “I do not know what happened to Awang Askandar and Muhammad Hawari who also faced a difficult time. I don’t know what happened to them”.

Muhammad Hawari was with a group of climbers to the top of Everest together with Awang Askandar who is also the Kedah Civil Defence Force director in the Malaysian Everest 2023 mission.

According to him, even though they were on different teams from the late Awang Askandar and Muhammad Hawari, they often met at Everest Base Camp (EBC) to rest and drink together.

“Climbers are usually friendly, not to mention that there were only five Malaysians, so we are very close like a family regardless of race, religion and age. On the day heading to the top of Everest, Muhammad Hawari was with me from Tent 1 to Tent 2. He is a great guy, even though he is mute and deaf but every time we meet we always start with a hug and tap each other’s head,” he said with tears in his eyes.

Ravichandran prayed that Muhammad Hawari could be found even though the search mission was quite challenging due to the weather.

He said this incident had a deep impact on his mental health, but he hoped the younger generation would not be afraid of the world of climbing which is always full of challenges and risks.

“Everest beats us this year…last year we returned with pride but this year is different because of the loss of lives, so far we have recorded 10 people including Awang Askandar compared to three people last year. This year’s wounds are quite deep mentally,” he said.

According to Ravichandran, every mistake and defeat experienced by Malaysian Everest climbers needs to be reviewed, including weather, technical and training factors to reduce the risk in the mission to conquer the highest mountain in the world.

“People always think that only funds are important but it is not, because many aspects need to be managed precisely to reduce risk. We have to take the initiative seriously and not underestimate the risk when it comes to the mission to conquer Mount Everest,” he said.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency