World Wide Fund (WWF) on the day of World Habitat Day, that is, 5 October 2015 released Hidden Himalayas: Asia’s Wonderland report. The Eastern Himalayas spans Bhutan, the north-eastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim, North Bengal, the trans-boundary landscape of Terai Arc, far north of Myanmar, Nepal and southern Tibet.
According to the report, 211 new species like sneezing monkey, walking fish and jewel-like snake, were discovered in the Eastern Himalayas region between 2009 and 2014. On an average 34 new species were discovered annually for the past six years.
The 211 new species include 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, one reptile, one bird and one mammal. These species were found by scientists from various organizations.
This volume and diversity of discoveries highlight the region as one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth.
Top unique species discovered in the region
• Bulbophyllum Nepalense: It was for the first time reported from Nepal. The new species was collected from Shivapuri National Park, Kathmandu at an altitude of 2300 meters. The species has oblong dorsal sepals, the elliptic petals and oblong decurved ligulate lip with narrow pseudobulbs.
• Vibrant blue dwarf ‘walking’ snakehead fish (Channa Andrao): Discovered from Lefraguri swamp, West Bengal can breathe atmospheric air and survive on land for up to four days, although moving in a manner much clumsier than a slithering snake.
• Koponenius Unicorns: It is a millipede and represents the first westernmost indigenous representatives of Haplodesmidae reported from the Himalayas of Nepal and India. Its 19 body segments are unique among millipede species.
• Mycomya Jeti: Discovered by Dr. Rauno Vaisanen, a Finnish taxonomist is one among the seven species of mosquito discovered. It is named after the abominable snowman of the Himalayas - the Yeti and another one after his wife’s first name, Mycomya anneliae.
• Elachura Formosa: The spotted wren-babbler discovered in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar belongs to a unique family of birds which contains no other known species.
• Leptobrachium Bompu: A striking blue-eyed 47-mm frog was discovered at an altitude of 2000-m in Arunachal Pradesh, the second most heavily forested state in India.
• Parachiloglanis Bhutanensis: The first endemic fish species to Bhutan found nowhere else in the world and its common name, Khaling Torrent Catfish is in reference to the village of Khaling.
• Megophrys Ancrae: A rare endemic horned frog was discovered in Deban, Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve, Changlang district, Arunachal Pradesh. Commonly known as the litter frogs, Megophryids range in size from 2 to 12.5 cm in length.
• Rhinopithecus Strykeri: Critically endangered monkey without nose was found in Kachin state of Myanmar. It is nicknamed as Snubby.
• Danionella Dracula (Dracula Fish): Discovered in Myanmar, the fish represent the largest group of vertebrates and while the majority of fish are found in oceans almost as many can be found in freshwater habitats.
• Protobothrops Himalayansus: The bejeweled lance-headed pit viper was found in Tibet, Norther Sikkim, India and Western Bhutan. It is believed to be a new addition to the Asian pitviper genus Trimeresurus.
Threat to the region and ecosystem
The report also underscored dire threats and challenges faced by the ecosystem across the region spanning Bhutan, north-east India, Nepal, north Myanmar and the southern parts of Tibet.
It also found that as a consequence of development, only 25% of the original habitats in the region remain intact and hundreds of species that live in the Eastern Himalayas are considered globally threatened.
Some of the threats to the region include climate change; by far the most serious, population growth, deforestation, overgrazing, poaching, the wildlife trade, mining, pollution and hydropower development have all contributed to the pressures on the fragile ecosystems in the region.
The stakes are high as the Himalayas are home to at least 10000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 types of freshwater fish.
Solution to protect the ecology of the region
To protect the region’s rich diversity of flora and fauna, the WWF is involved in supporting the countries of the Eastern Himalayas’ progress towards green economies that value ecosystems and the services they provide to the millions of people in the region.
For this purpose, it runs the WWW Living Himalayas Initiative that urges a strong regional collaboration to ensure that people in this region, live within the ecological means and remain within the boundaries of one planet.
It also develops and support programmes that help secure a brighter future for the region’s people and biodiversity, including its rich array of species.
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What: Released by WWF
When: 5 October 2015