Bhutan adds 15 new species to its biodiversity

These include 11 plants, and a fish, a bird, a snake, and a moth each 

Conservation: Fifteen new species of plants and animals were discovered in the past six years in Bhutan, a new World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report released yesterday revealed.

These include 11 plants, and a fish, a bird, a snake, and a moth each.

A bejewelled lance-headed pit viper, Protobothrops himalayanus, is found in some parts of Haa. The snake lays between 20-30 eggs, a phenomenon unknown to scientists until its discovery in 2013.

Discovery of a 10-centimetre bird Elachura Formosa, last year in Bhutan, India, Nepal and Myanmar, led to the creation of a new family. The bird can be seen in Tashithang on the way to Gasa in April, former Indian Ambassador to Bhutan  and a regular birdwatcher Sudhir Vyas said.

A total of 211 discoveries were made between 2009 and 2014, and includes 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, and a reptile, a bird and a mammal.

An average of 34 new species were discovered every year in the last six years.

The report titled Hidden Himalayas: Asia’s Wonderland was released yesterday coinciding with the World Habitat Day.

WWF-India’s chief executive officer and Chair of the WWF Living Himalayas Initiative, Ravi Singh said since the Eastern Himalayas, represent economies that are growing and developing, it is imperative to ensure that the existing biodiversity is protected and there are healthy ecosystems maintained across the conservation mosaic.

Eastern Himalayas encompass Nepal, Bhutan, Northern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim and parts of North Bengal, northern Myanmar and southern Tibet.

Between 1998 and 2008 in the Eastern Himalayas, at least 354 new species were described as new to science. Over 550 new species have been discovered from the Eastern Himalayas over the last 15 years.

The Himalayas harbour at least 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 types of freshwater fish.

The report underscores dire threats facing the vibrant ecosystems. Only a quarter of the original habitats in the region remain intact and hundreds of species that live in the Eastern Himalayas are considered globally threatened.

Population growth, deforestation, overgrazing, poaching, the wildlife trade, mining, pollution and hydropower development have contributed to the pressures on the fragile ecosystems in the region, the report states.

The leader of WWF Living Himalayas Initiative, Sami Tornikoski, said, “The challenge is to preserve our threatened ecosystems before these species, and others yet unknown, are lost.”

Agriculture and forests minister Yeshey Dorji said the new discoveries have further enhanced the reputation of the region being a conservation jewel.

“This is indeed an indication of how much there is still to be explored and found from our incredible region,” he said.

However, research within the country has been criticised for only focussing on charismatic and popular species of plants and animals. Forest officials during a recent national park conference said that there were many gaps in research on the lesser-known species.

Forest and park services director general Chencho Norbu urged foresters to take up researches on lesser-known species as well.

“The number of known vascular plants in 2005 has remained the same even today,” he said.

Wildlife Conservation Division’s forest officer Ngawang Gyeltshen said much attempt is made on the charismatic species such as orchids, primulas, poppies, and rhododendrons.

“Except for a few, the rest of the plant families in the country were not revised,” he said.

Source: Kuensel