New Burmese dawn reaps harvest of new species

A dragon fish with intricate, maze-like markings on every scale and a frog with rough, chocolate-coloured skin are among more than two dozen flora and fauna species found in Burma since it emerged from half a century of military rule and isolation.

The World Wildlife Fund said the discoveries by global scientists in the last two years highlight the need to invest in conservation as the biologically diverse nation of 60 million revs up its economic engines and opens up to foreign investment.

Already, it is starting to succumb to pressures such as deforestation and illegal wildlife trade to mining and the development of hydro power.

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The 26 plants and animals newly identified in Burma include a species of dragon fish. The so-called “scribbled arowana” is creating a buzz because of its unheard-of markings.

Also previously unidentified by scientists, a ginger plant collected from a single region in the cloud forests of the western state of Rakhine had been hiding in plain sight at local markets, WWF said. And a chocolate-spotted frog was discovered in a mountain range that stretches along the western border.

Other remarkable discoveries made in other parts of the Mekong Delta region of south-east Asia from 2012 to 2013 – which covers Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan province and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in southern China – include:

The Cambodian tailorbird – a small, dark warbler with an orange-red tuft on its head discovered, surprisingly, in the capital, Phnom Penh

A giant flying squirrel, its fur red and white, spotted initially by scientists at a bush meat market in Laos.

In the same country, they found a species of huntsman spider, the first of its kind in the world without any eyes.

The news follows yesterday’s reports of the discovery of a new species of a tiny, colourful bird by Irish scientists in a small island chain in Sulawesi, Indonesia.