211 New Species Discovered In The Himalayas

A new species of dwarf snakehead fish (Channa andrao) that can wriggle on wet land for up to a quarter of a mile in order to reach another body of water. Henning Strack Hansen/WWF

Over 200 new species have been found in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years, including a noseless sneezing monkey and a fanged "dracula fish." The report by the WWF shows that they have found 133 new species of plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 species of fish, 10 amphibians, one reptile, one bird and one mammal between 2009 and 2014.

Scientists found the sneezing noseless monkey from anecdotes that the local people of Myanmar told them: Essentially, the animals are easy to locate if it’s raining because droplets entering their upturned noses result in continual sneezing fits. They also added that on rainy days, the monkeys sit with their head tucked in between their knees to avoid this uncomfortable situation. Unfortunately, this little Voldemort doppelgänger is critically endangered.

Some of the other extraordinary discoveries include a 47-millimeter-long (1.9-inch-long) blue-eyed frog called Leptobrachium bompu found in India and an air-breathing fish that "walks," or more like wriggles, on land for up to a quarter of a mile. The dwarf snakehead fish (Channa andrao) was found in the Lefraguri swamp in West Bengal. These snakehead fish are a weird throwback of evolution that, despite owning gills, will die if they are starved of oxygen from the air, meaning they need access to the surface.

Image: Blue-eyed frog called Leptobrachium bompu. Credit: Chintan Sheth/WWF

The Eastern Himalayas is one of the most biologically rich areas of the world, stretching across Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, North Bengal, Bhutan and North-East India. It’s the natural habitat of Bengal tigers, snow leopards, red pandas, the greater one-horned rhino and golden langur monkeys. Recent research also suggests that 50% of the region's small mammals have not yet been discovered. As if that didn’t highlight the importance of this environment, it is also a source of water for 1 billion people.

Despite this, only 25% of the Eastern Himalayas remain intact. The area is under massive threat, with climate change estimated as being the most severe risk. Also threatening this lush landscape is mining, illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, construction of roads and dams, as well as the development of gas and oil projects.

“With discovery, comes the important responsibility to continue protecting and caring for these precious gifts that this world has been blessed with,” said Dechen Dorji, Bhutan’s representative for the WWF. “This is yet another reason why the world must come together to give voice to the voiceless, to build a future where humanity can continue to live in harmony with nature.”

Spotted-wren-babbler. Ramki Sreenivasan Conservation India/WWF

However, it is not all doom and gloom for this beautiful corner of the planet. According to the report, these findings will help the WWF to persuade governments in South Asia and East Asia to “transition to a green economy.” Along with this, they aim to encourage stronger political collaboration to build a unified vision of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.  

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