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WWF: East Himalaya surveys yield more than 200 new species

Many of the newly discovered species are already endangered, or will be soon.

By Brooks Hays
WWF: East Himalaya surveys yield more than 200 new species
The spotted wren babbler is one of 211 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas since 2009. Photo by WWF

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Since 2009, more than 200 new species have been discovered in the Eastern Himalayas.

According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund, between 2009 and 2014, scientists identified an average of 34 new species annually. The 211 total species found and named over the last few years include 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish and 10 amphibians, as well as one reptile, bird and mammal.

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Highlighted in the new report are species like the spotted wren babbler, dwarf walking snakehead fish, bompu litter frog and Burmese snub-nosed monkey.

The Eartern Himalayas are an ecologically rich region comprising Bhutan, northeastern India, Nepal, northern Myanmar and portions of southern Tibet. The region includes a range of habitat types, and has been declared a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International.

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"The discovery of over 200 new species in the Eastern Himalayas is an important indicator of the rich biodiversity we still possess, but it also raises an important question of how to navigate the daunting development challenges facing the region while committing to preserve this natural heritage," Phuntsho Choden, the communications director for WWF Bhutan and the Living Himalayas Initiative, told Discovery News.

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Though more and more species have been found in recent years, the Eastern Himalayas have been offering scientists surprises for decades. Between 1998 and 2008, 345 new species were discovered.

"I am excited that the region -- home to a staggering number of species including some of the most charismatic fauna -- continues to surprise the world with the nature and pace of species discovery," Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF-India, told National Geographic.

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While scientists are likely to keep finding new species in the remote areas of the Eastern Himalayas, the new report points out that the region is under threat. Valuable habitat continues to be lost to logging, agriculture and other forms of human development. Many of the newly discovered species are already endangered, or will be soon.

"The report found that as a consequence of development, only 25 percent of the original habitats in the region remain intact and hundreds of species that live in the Eastern Himalayas are considered globally threatened," WWF warned in a press release.

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