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New Snake, Butterfly, Orchid Species Found in Vietnam

WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2007 (ENS) - Scientists with the World Wildlife Fund have discovered 11 animal and plant species new to science in a remote forested area in central Vietnam.

Within the ancient tropical forests of a region known as Vietnam’s Green Corridor, scientists found a snake, five orchids, and two butterflies as well as three other plants new to science and exclusive to the Annamites Mountain Range.

Oberonia huensis 2, one of five new orchid species discovered in Vietnam's Green Corridor (Photo courtesy GCP)
Ten other plant species, including four orchids, are still under examination but also appear to be new species.

"Discoveries of so many new species are rare and occur only in very special places like the Green Corridor," said Dr. Chris Dickinson, WWF’s chief conservation scientist in the Green Corridor. "Several large mammal species were discovered in the 1990s in the same forests so these latest discoveries may be just the tip of the iceberg."

WWF wildlife experts warn that all of these species are at risk from illegal logging, hunting, unsustainable extraction of natural resources and conflicting development interests.

Yet, local authorities, especially the Thua Thien Hue Provincial Forest Protection Department, have committed to conserve and sustainably manage these precious and unique forests.

"The area is extremely important for conservation and the province wants to protect the forests and their environmental services, as well as contribute to sustainable development," said Hoang Ngoc Khanh, who is director of the Thua Thien Hue Provincial Forest Protection Department.

The Green Corridor is the area between Bach Ma National Park and Phong Dien Nature Reserve in central Vietnam.

The rainforests of the Central Annamites are thought to have existed as continuous undisturbed forest cover for thousands of years, and, as a result, offer unique habitats for many species, said WWF.

Newly discovered white-lipped keelback snake (Photo by XuanTruong courtesy WWF)

The new snake species, called the white-lipped keelback, Amphiesma leucomystax,prefers living by streams where it catches frogs and other small animals. With a yellow-white stripe sweeping along its head and red dots covering its body, the white-lipped keelback can reach 31 inches.

The two new butterfly species are among eight discovered in the province since 1996. One is a skipper - a butterfly with quick, darting flight habits - from the genus Zela, and the other is a new genus in the subfamily of Satyrinae.

Three of the new orchid species are entirely leafless, a rarity even among orchids. Containing none of the chlorophyll or green pigment commonly found in plants, these orchids live on decaying matter like many fungal species.

The other new plants include an aspidistra which produces a nearly black flower and a newly-discovered species of arum with beautiful yellow flowers. Arum plants have funnel-shaped leaves surrounding the flowers.

Stretching from the mountainous forests of the Annamites to one of the last remaining lowland wet evergreen forests, Vietnam's Green Corridor supports threatened species and includes some of the longest remaining stretches of lowland river with intact forest habitat feeding into the Perfume River.

Monitoring primates in Vietnam's Green Corridor (Photo courtesy GCP)
The area is inhabited by one of the world’s most endangered primates, white-cheeked crested gibbons.

Recent surveys found 15 reptiles and amphibians and six bird species among the threatened species living there.

The area is considered the best location in Vietnam to save the saola - a unique type of wild cattle just discovered by scientists in 1992.

The forests of the Annamites are important water catchments, supplying water for thousands of people who depend on the region’s rivers. Local ethnic minority groups earn more than half of their income from the non-timber resources of these same forests.

WWF says the new discoveries underline the importance of conservation in threatened tropical forests.

Established in June 2004, the Green Corridor project is a four year project implemented by the WWF Vietnam program and Forest Protection Department of Thua Thien Hue province.

It is supported by the World Bank - Global Environmental Facility, with co-funding from the Dutch Development Organization, the People’s Committee of Thua Thien Hue Province, and WWF. The aim of the project is to strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders and to conserve the landscape of the Green Corridor area.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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