Environmental Science: New Species of Mekong

Pannasastra University of Cambodia Commitment to Excellence Environmental Science (2011-2012) Phnom Kravanh Instructor: Dr. Taing You New Species of Mekong 1. Sun Kimsean 2. Yeang Sokheng 3. Phirun Sopheavy 4. Thanthiva Akkharath 5. Kan Sivorn 6. Eng Savath 7. Vanna Yuk Van Neath The Mekong River is a major river in Southeastern Asia and is one of the world’s greatest rivers, ranked number 10th largest river by length in the world. The basin of the Mekong River drains a total land area of 795,000 km2 from the eastern watershed of the Tibetan Plateau to the Mekong Delta.

The Mekong River flows approximately 4,909 km through three provinces of China, continuing into Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam before emptying into the South China Sea. The Mekong River has many different kinds of names in many places. For example: Dza-chu (Tibet), Lancang Jiang (Jiang as river in China), Thailand and Laos as Mae Nam Khong (Mae Nam as river). The Mekong River Basin is divided into 2 parts: Upper Mekong Basin and Lower Mekong Basin. The Tibetan Plateau, Three Rivers Area (Mekong, Salween, and Yangtze) and Lancang Basin form the Upper Mekong Basin, which composed of China and Myanmar.

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The Northern Highlands, Khorat Plateau, Tonle Sap Basin and Mekong Delta make up the Lower Mekong Basin, which composed of Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Mekong River holds more than 1,500 species of fish, including the Mekong giant catfish—the largest freshwater fish in the world—and the endangered Irrawaddy Mekong dolphins. Besides tigers and elephants, the Mekong’s forests sustain an extraordinary range of plants and birds, and extremely rare species such as douc langur and the saola.

At half the length of a bus and weighing up to 600kgs, the Mekong River’s giant freshwater stingray (Dasyatis laosensis) is the world’s largest freshwater fish. The critically endangered and culturally fabled Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) ranks third at up to 3 metres in length and 350kgs. The Mekong River is home to more giant fish than any other river on Earth. Populations of the Mekong giant catfish have fallen 90 per cent in just two decades. It is also a home for the endangered dolphins called Irrawaddy Dolphins.

Dog-eating catfish The scientific name is Pangasius sanitwongsei also known as: Paroon shark or ChaoPhraya giant catfish It is known to enjoy feasting on the carcasses of large animals, the remains of dead fowl and dogs have been used as bait to ensnare the Dog-eating catfish. At an impressive 660 pounds (300kg), the dog-eating catfish is almost the same size as the largest recorded bull shark. The Global Top 10 Giant Freshwater Fish 1. Giant freshwater stingray (Himantura chaophraya) 600kg (500cm, 240cm disc width) Mekong River Basin 2.

Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) 500kg (700cm) Yangtze River Basin 3. Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) 350kg (300cm) Mekong River Basin 4. Wels catfish (Silurus glanis) 306kg (500cm) Widespread in Europe and Asia 5. Giant pangasius (dog-eating catfish) (Pangasius sanitwongsei) 300kg (300cm) Mekong River Basin 6. Giant barb (Catlocarpio siamensis) 300kg (300cm) Mekong River Basin 7. Arapaima (pirarucu; paiche) (Arapaima gigas) 200kg (450cm) Amazon River Basin 8.

Piraiba (laulau; lechero) (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum) 200kg (360cm) Amazon River Basin 9. Nile perch (Lates niloticus) 200kg (200cm) Nile River Basin 10. Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) 137kg (305cm) Mississippi River Basin The area surrounding the Mekong River is home to nearly 30,000 known species of plants, mammals, reptiles, and fish; including elephants, tigers, and the giant Mekong catfish. Over 1,000 previously unknown species have been found in the Mekong basin in the past decade.

A total of 145 plants, 28 reptiles, 25 fish, 7 amphibians, 2 mammals, and 1 bird were all discovered within the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan. Among the new species that were discovered is the snub-nosed monkey with an Elvis-like hairstyle (Rhinopithecus strykeri). Found in Myanmar’s remote, forested and mountainous Kachin state in early 2010. Locals say the monkey can be spotted with its head between its knees in wet weather to avoid rain running into its upturned nose.

In addition to the world’s first images of the snub-nosed monkey, there are other globally threatened species including red panda, takin, marbled cat, Malayan sun bear and rare pheasants such as Temminick’s tragopan, documenting the importance of this area for biodiversity conservation. But, for the extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam, recently confirmed by WWF, is one tragic indicator of the decline of biodiversity in the region. The Mekong’s wild places and wildlife are under extreme pressure from rapid, unsustainable development and climate change.

A staggering array of 28 reptiles was also newly discovered in 2010, including an all-female lizard (Leiolepis ngovantrii) in Vietnam that reproduces via cloning without the need for male lizards. However, this reptile might face extinction and because they are hunted down by people living in that area for been making as food. It was found by a Vietnamese scientist in a tank at a restaurant where it was being served as food. Apart from dams, logging, hunting, infrastructural development, and migration of humans into wild areas are also causing the ecosystems incredible stress and is leading to the death and extinction of many species.

In January 2010, a small, distinctive bird living in the rocky forests of the Annamite mountain range in Laos and Vietnam was described for the first time. It is similar to other warblers in this area of Southeast Asia, except for its distinct vocalizations and slight morphological differences. The tiny bird is greenish-olive with a yellow breast and striped crown. It has a loud and unique call, which is what first alerted the researchers that the bird may be new to science.

A new psychedelic gecko species was discovered this past year on Hon Khoai Island, 18 km off the southern landfill of the Ca Mu Peninsula in southern Vietnam. The new species is unique because it displays a remarkable psychedelic pattern of bright orange appendages; a dense, yellow neck overlying thick, black, lines; and a blue-gray body bearing yellow bars on its bright-orange sides. This new frog species from Laos was one of seven frogs discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year. While new species are discovered, researchers note that at least nine species of amphibian have gone extinct since 1980.

While many of these new species are being found in remote areas, some are being discovered in very close to humans — such as the Siamese Peninsula pit viper which was identified by science for the first time as it slithered through the rafters of a Thai restaurant. As for the plants, there were five species of carnivorous pitcher plants were also discovered across Thailand and Cambodia, with some species capable of luring in and consuming small rats, mice, lizards and even birds. • The Mekong’s wild places and wildlife are under extreme pressure from rapid, unsustainable development and climate change.

Wild Mekong is the fourth in a series of reports highlighting new species discoveries in the Greater Mekong region. The initial report First Contact was released in December 2008 and showcased the discovery of over 1000 new species discoveries in the region between 1997 and 2007. In total, 1584 species in the Greater Mekong have been newly described by science between 1997 and 2010. • The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Summit is a tri-annual event attended by leaders from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The meeting had been held in Myanmar on Dec 19th and 20th .

The Summit would endorse the new 10-year strategic plan for the GMS. WWF is calling upon them to put the benefits of biodiversity, and the costs of losing it, at the center of decision-making and regional cooperation. WWF warns the Greater Mekong’s valuable natural assets and species will continue to disappear without accelerated efforts to green the region’s economies. The extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam, recently confirmed by WWF, is a tragic indicator of the decline of biodiversity in the region. References Fauna & Flora International. 1th January 2012. http://www. fauna-flora. org/news/first-images-of-newly-discovered-primate/ Mekong River Commission. http://www. mrcmekong. org/the-mekong-basin/physiography/ Mekong River Commission. http://www. mrcmekong. org/the-mekong-basin/physiography/physiographic-regions/ Mekong River Commission. 2010. State of the Basin Report 2010. Shepard, Wade. 23 December 2011. http://www. vagabondjourney. com/travelogue/wild-mekong-hundreds-of-new-species-found-in-mekong-basin/ World Wildlife Fund. 28 July 2010. http://wwf. panda. org/? 94313/Mekong-dams-threaten-rare-giant-fish World Wildlife Fund. 27 July 2010. http://www. worldwildlife. org/ who/media/press/2010/WW FPresitem17475. html World Wildlife Fund. http://www. worldwildlife. org/what/wherewework/mekong/index. html World Wildlife Fund. 12 December 2011. http://www. worldwildlife. org/who/media/press/2011/WWFPresitem25296. html World Wildlife Fund. 12 December 2011. http://wwf. panda. org/? uNewsID=202743 ———————– The forests of the Greater Mekong region harbor a rich variety of flowering plants, including this new orchid find.

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