Animal programs

Over 200 new animal species have been discovered, and some have quite interesting names

It is true that a large part of our fauna is in danger. Like, an alarming amount. In 2021 alone, 22 species have been declared extinct in the United States.

And on a global scale, Earth is facing what scientists call its “sixth mass extinction”, mostly thanks to human activity. You know, deforestation, climate change, overconsumption, overpopulation, industrial agriculture, poaching… the usual suspects.

It sounds like dystopian science fiction, but sadly, that’s the reality we live in right now.

But today there is a silver lining. Because the World Wildlife Fund recently reported 224 completely new species.

From a snake channeling David Bowie to an ape with ivory glasses, there are plenty of newly discovered creatures here to offer some hope to otherwise grim stats.

a map of the Mekong region

The WWF report, released on January 19, covered the biodiversity-rich habitats of the Greater Mekong region, which includes China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Myanmar.

The Mekong is home to many strange and peculiar species. Among the 163 species reported in 2016 were the Laos rainbow-headed serpent, renowned for its resemblance to Ziggy Stardust, and a Klingon newt, which was a hit with Star Trek fans everywhere…including me.

The Mekong is also where you might find the extremely rare saola, otherwise known as the Asian unicorn (oddly enough, it doesn’t just have one horn).

And let’s not forget the Dementor Wasp, a vicious insect named after the soul-sucking wraiths in “Harry Potter.” These gnarled creatures inject paralyzing venom into their prey before engulfing them alive.

If that isn’t nightmare fuel, I don’t know what is.

The latest list includes a monkey with ghostly white circles around its eyes, dubbed the Popa langur, after Myanmar’s once-active Mt. Popa volcano.

The Popa langur also bears the title of “Only New Mammal Discovered”. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but still remarkable.

Plus, there’s the bright orange twin slug snake, which consumes, you guessed it, slugs. You are what you eat, after all.

Also, a new ginger plant called the stink bug for its pungent smell, which was not found in a jungle at all, but rather in a plant store in northeast Thailand.

While the findings are extraordinary, K. Yoganand, regional wildlife and wildlife crime manager for WWF-Greater Mekong, told Reuters that these plants and animals still face an “intense threat,” claiming that “many species [will be] endangered even before they were described.

The Popa langur, for example, is already a candidate for extinction, as only 200 to 250 are estimated to survive in the wild, CBS reported.

It is a sobering reminder. But fortunately, there are ways our species can help.

On its website, the WWF offers two options. Under the “Action Center”, you will find different ways to actively participate in particular campaigns, such as the repeal of oil and gas programs in the Arctic.

Alternatively, under the ‘adopt an animal’ section, you’ll find gifts and clothing available for purchase, with proceeds going to help endangered animals. Personally, I look at the adorable plush black jaguar.

These amazing creatures offer so much beauty, awe and wonder to the planet. No action for their preservation is too small.

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