Himalayas rich habitat in danger
From correspondents in Kathmandu | August 10, 2009
Article from: Agence France-Presse
A FLYING frog, the world’s smallest deer and the first new monkey to be found in more than a century are among 350 new species discovered in the eastern Himalayas in the past decade, the WWF says.But the environmental group said the vital habitats of the mountain range were facing growing pressures from unsustainable development in the region, which spans Nepal, China, India, Bhutan and Burma.
In a report released in Kathmandu today, it said climate change, deforestation, overgrazing by domestic livestock and illegal poaching and wildlife trading threatened one of the biologically richest areas of the planet.
“In the last half-century, this area of South Asia has faced a wave of pressures as a result of population growth and the increasing demand for commodities,” said the report titled The Eastern Himalayas – Where Worlds Collide.
“Only 25 per cent of the original habitats in the region remain intact. For the unique species of the Eastern Himalayas, this means that today 163 are considered globally threatened,” it said.
The WWF said 353 new species were discovered in the region between 1998 and 2008, among them a red-footed tree frog known as a “flying frog” because its large webbed feet allow it to glide when falling.
Another new species was a kind of caecilian, a limbless amphibian that resembles a giant earthworm and lives underground – a significant discovery because caecilians are among the planet’s least-studied creatures.
Other highlights were the world’s smallest deer – a miniature muntjac standing just 60-80 centimetres tall that was found in northern Burma – and the first new monkey species to be discovered in more than a century.
The WWF said the new species of macaque was one of the highest-dwelling monkeys in the world, living in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state at between 1600 and 3500 metres above sea level.
Among the 242 new plant varieties discovered was an ultramarine blue flower found by two intrepid Chinese botanists who descended into a gorge in Tibet that is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in places.
The WWF described the rare bloom as “dramatic in both colour and form” and said its colour changed with the temperature, making it particularly remarkable.