Scientists discover 100 new species in 'biologically rich' Myanmar

WION Web Team
Yangon, Myanmar Updated: Mar 07, 2022, 09:00 PM(IST)

A young Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, precious representative of the next generation of this critically endangered primate Photograph:( Twitter )

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Out of the 100 new species, 37 of them were different types of gecko living in isolated pockets of karst limestone habitat in eastern Myanmar, in many cases restricted to a single cave or hilltop

Myanmar is the second-largest country in mainland Southeast Asia and is home to a wealth of biodiversity.

The country still retains large tracts of forest that harbour charismatic species such as the red panda and the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey. 

International wildlife group Fauna and Flora International said at least 100 new species from monkeys to mussels, were found in Myanmar in a decade.

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Since 2010, researchers have made an "incredible sequence of discoveries" with the identification of the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, a small black primate known as the "sneezing monkey."

But the organisation raised fears over a "barrage of threats", including from illegal logging, hunting, agriculture, infrastructure development and quarrying.

Over ten years, during which Myanmar's generals eased their stranglehold on power, scientists from all over the world made a beeline to the country to explore rainforests, delve into cave systems, wade through rivers and pick their way across majestic karst rock formations.  

Scientists used measurements and samples from museum collections to compare and identify key differences with features of the newly discovered animals and plants, the report said.

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Identifying new species is tricky, though, and sometimes can only be determined using a variety of methods, such as frog calls and genetic data.

A new type of begonia with reddish flowers and a berry-like fruit also was found in the uplands of Myanmar, where illegal mining and logging have become an increasingly dire threat in the country, which is in the midst of political turmoil after a military takeover a year ago.

The military has been battling militias allied with a parallel National Unity Government (NUG), which last year called for a nationwide revolt and has been outlawed by the junta.

With field operations already suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic, FFI's Acting Country Manager Ngwe Lwin said the team was focusing on existing conservation programmes with Myanmar partner Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association.

Myanmar is also home to some of Southeast Asia’s most extensive and least disturbed coastal and marine ecosystems, which include coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. All told, over 800 marine fish species are found here, as well as nine seagrass species and 51 corals.

In stark contrast to the country’s biological riches, at least a third of its people currently live below the poverty line and the majority depend on natural resources for their survival.

The United Nations Development Programme has estimated that nearly half of Myanmar's 55 million population will be living below the national poverty line this year.

(With inputs from agencies)

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