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River region yields scores of new species

Spotted gecko, fanged frog are among Mekong finds

A leopard gecko  is seen in Cat Ba Island National Park in northern Vietnam in this 2008 photo.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
A leopard gecko is seen in Cat Ba Island National Park in northern Vietnam in this 2008 photo. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Michael Casey Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand – A gecko with leopard-like spots on its body and a fanged frog that eats birds are among 163 new species discovered last year in the Mekong River region of Southeast Asia, an environmental group said Friday.

WWF International said scientists in 2008 discovered 100 plants, 28 fish, 18 reptiles, 14 amphibians, two mammals and one bird species in the region. That works out to about three species a week and is in addition to the 1,000 new species catalogued there from 1997 to 2007.

“These species are now finally in the spotlight, and there are clearly more waiting to be discovered,” said Stuart Chapman, director of the WWF Greater Mekong Program.

Researchers working for WWF warned that the effects of climate change, including a surge in droughts and floods, threaten the diverse habitat that supports these species. That’s on top of threats such as poaching, pollution and habitat destruction.

“Some species will be able to adapt to climate change, many will not, potentially resulting in massive extinctions,” Chapman said in a statement.

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