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WWF - New species discovered in fragile Eastern Himalayas

More than 350 new species, including a flying frog and the world’s smallest deer, have been discovered in the Eastern Himalayas, a WWF report has revealed. But this treasure trove of biological diversity is now threatened by climate change, it warns.

The report, The Eastern Himalayas – Where Worlds Collide, describes a host of new species found over the last decade in the remote mountain region spanning Bhutan, north-eastern India, northern Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and southern parts of Tibet. They include 244 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds, two mammals and at least 60 invertebrates.

Biologically rich

“These exciting finds reinforce just how little we know about the world around us,” said our conservation science advisor, Mark Wright.

“In the Eastern Himalayas we have a region of extraordinary beauty and with some of the most biologically rich areas on the planet. Ironically, it is also one of the regions most at risk from climate change, as evidenced by the rapid retreat of the glaciers, and only time will tell how well species will be able to adapt – if at all.”

Amazing discoveries

Among the discoveries are a bright green frog which uses its long red webbed feet to glide in the air, and the miniature muntjac or leaf deer. At just over two feet tall, the leaf deer is the world’s smallest deer species.

One discovery was anything but new: a 100 million-year-old gecko fossil found in an amber mine in Myanmar. The now-extinct species is the oldest type of gecko known to science.

The region harbours a staggering array of species: 10,000 plants, 300 mammals, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 freshwater fish. The Eastern Himalayas are also home to many of the remaining Bengal tigers and are the last bastion of the greater one-horned rhino.

Climate impact

Unfortunately, this globally-important hotspot of biological diversity is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

We have therefore launched our Climate for Life campaign to bring the plight of the Himalayas to the attention of the world. And we are working with local communities to help them cope with the impacts of climate change.

Tackling climate change in the region also depends on significant action from developed countries. We are calling on governments attending the climate change talks in Copenhagen this December to commit industrialised countries to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels).

“There is no room for compromise on this issue,” added Wright. “Without these cuts the Himalayas face a precarious future – impacting both the unique wildlife and the 20% of humanity who rely on the river systems that arise in these mountains.”

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