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26 Sep 07
New animal and plant species found in Vietnam
Gland, Switzerland – Scientists have discovered 11 new species of animals and plants in a remote area in central Vietnam, WWF said today.
The species were found in the Thua Thien Hue Province — a region known as the Green Corridor.
They include two butterflies and a snake, as well as five orchids and three other plants, all of which are exclusive to tropical forests in Vietnam’s Annamites Mountain Range. Ten other plant species, including four orchids, are still under examination but also appear to be new species.
“You only discover so many new species in very special places, and the Green Corridor is one of them,” said Chris Dickinson, WWF’s Chief Technical Adviser in the area.
“Several large mammal species were discovered in the 1990s in the same forests, which means that these latest discoveries could be just the tip of the iceberg.”
The rainforests of the Central Annamites likely existed as continuous undisturbed forest cover for thousands of years, and, as a result, offer unique habitats for many species, WWF says.
The new snake species, called the white-lipped keelback, tends to live by streams where it catches frogs and other small animals. It has a beautiful yellow-white stripe that sweeps along its head and red dots cover its body. It can reach about 80 centimetres in length.
The butterfly species are among eight discovered in the province since 1996. One is a skipper — a butterfly with quick, darting flight habits — from the genus Zela, the other is a new genus in the subfamily of Satyrinae.
Three of the new orchid species are entirely leafless, which is rare for orchids. They contain no chlorophyll and live on decaying matter, like many fungal species.
The other new plants include an aspidistra, which produces a flower that is nearly black. Aspidistra-relatives plants are used as houseplants and are able to withstand very low light conditions.
And a newly discovered species of arum has beautiful yellow flowers. Arum plants have funnel-shaped leaves surrounding the flowers.
Species at risk
According to WWF, all these species are at risk from illegal logging, hunting, unsustainable extraction of natural resources and conflicting development interests.
However, the Thua Thien Hue Province authorities — in particular the Forest Protection Department — have committed to conserve and sustainably manage these valuable forests.
“The area is extremely important for conservation and the province wants to protect the forests and their environmental services, as well as contribute to sustainable development,” said Hoang Ngoc Khanh, Director of Thua Thien Hue Provincial Forest Protection Department.
Recent surveys have shown that many threatened species are found in the Green Corridor, including 15 reptiles and amphibians and six bird species.
The area is also home to Vietnam’s greatest number of white-cheeked crested gibbons, one of the world’s most endangered primates. The Green Corridor is believed to be the best location in Vietnam to conserve the saola, a unique type of wild cattle only discovered by scientists in 1992.
According to WWF, forests in the Annamites also help preserve critical environmental services, such as water supplies for thousand of people who depend on the region’s rivers.
They also provide non-timber forest resources for local ethnic minority groups who earn more than half of their income from these products.
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