The Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, through which the Mekong River flows, has yielded an extraordinary 367 new species in 2012 and 2013 alone, according to a new report published by World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The discoveries in the region, consisting of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, demonstrate that the area "is the front line for scientific exploration" and conservation, the report concludes.
The diverse collection of new species consists, so far, of 290 plants, 24 fish, 21 amphibians, 28 reptiles, one bird and three mammals. In the latter category is the Laotian giant flying squirrel, seen from the bottom in this photo.
Thomas Gray, manager of WWF-Greater Mekong's Species Program, told Discovery News, "Described from a specimen collected from a local wild meat market, this species likely occurs in an area of central Laos characterized by extensive limestone karst formations and which is a center of mammalian endemism (i.e., the animals found here are likely unique to this location and are not found elsewhere).
He continued, "The demand for wild meat from the rapidly growing middle classes in south-east Asia is one of the biggest threats to the region's unique mammals."