211 new species found in eastern Himalayas

The wildlife discovered by scientists in the fragile eastern Himalayas includes a blue "walking snakehead fish" (above) which can breathe air, survive on land for four days and slither up to 400m on wet ground.
The wildlife discovered by scientists in the fragile eastern Himalayas includes a blue "walking snakehead fish" (above) which can breathe air, survive on land for four days and slither up to 400m on wet ground.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • A monkey that sneezes when it rains and a "walking" fish are among more than 200 species discovered in the fragile eastern Himalayas in recent years, according to conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The group has compiled a survey of wildlife discovered by scientists across Bhutan, north-east India, Nepal, north Myanmar and southern Tibet in a bid to raise awareness of the threats facing the ecologically sensitive region.

The species include what the WWF described as a blue "walking snakehead fish", which can breathe air, survive on land for four days and slither up to 400mon wet ground.

Others include an ornate red, yellow and orange pit viper that could pass off as a piece of jewellery, a freshwater "dracula" fish with fangs and three new types of banana.

In the forests of northern Myanmar, scientists learnt in 2010 of a black-and-white monkey with an upturned nose that causes it to sneeze when it rains.

On rainy days, they often sit with their heads tucked between their knees to avoid getting water in their snub-noses.

The 211 new species discovered between 2009 and last year include 133 plants including orchids, 26 kinds of fish, 10 amphibians, 39 invertebrates, one reptile, one bird and a mammal.

In its report, the WWF warned of a series of threats to the species, including population growth, deforestation, overgrazing, poaching, mining and hydropower development.

Just 25 per cent of the region's original habitats remain intact, and hundreds of species are considered to be globally threatened, said the report released this week.

"The challenge is to preserve our threatened ecosystems before these species and others that are yet unknown are lost," said Mr Sami Tornikoski, who heads the WWF Living Himalayas Initiative.

The report calls for more sustainable development in the region, singling out a need for greener hydropower plants and government assistance for communities to adapt to climate change.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2015, with the headline '211 new species found in eastern Himalayas'. Print Edition | Subscribe