11 new species discovered in remote Vietnam

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The Independent Online

Two types of butterfly and a red-spotted snake are among 11 new species discovered in tropical forests in Vietnam, it was revealed yesterday.

The species, which include five orchids and three other plants, are exclusive to the remote forests in the Annamites Mountains of Thua Thien Hue, commonly known as Vietnam's "green corridor".

Another 10 kinds of plant, including four orchids, are still being examined and are also thought to be new species.

The discoveries have come in the same province where several mammal species were discovered in the 1990s, and could represent the "tip of the iceberg" said Chris Dickinson, WWF's chief technical adviser in the area.

"You only discover so many new species in very special places and the 'green corridor' is one of them," he added.

The new snake is called the white-lipped keelback and has a yellow-white stripe along its head with red dots covering its body. It lives by streams and catches frogs and other small animals.

Three of the new species of orchid have no leaves and live on decaying matter, like fungi, while the other new plants include an aspidistra with almost black flowers, and a yellow-flowered species of arum with funnel shaped leaves.

One of the new butterflies, which is among eight to have been discovered in the province since 1996, is a skipper which has quick, darting flight habits. All the new species were discovered in the past two years.

But the WWF warned that endangered species in the area, which is one of the last remaining lowland wet evergreen forests in the south-east Asian country, are under threat from illegal logging, hunting, extraction of natural resources and development.

The "green corridor" is home to many threatened plants and animals, including one of the world's most endangered primates, the white-cheeked crested gibbon, the WWF says.

It is also considered to be the best place to conserve the Saola – a unique type of wild cow which was discovered by scientists only in 1992.

Hoang Ngoc Khanh, director of Thua Thien Hue provincial forest protection department, said: "The area is extremely important for conservation and the province wants to protect the forests and their environmental services, as well as contribute to sustainable development."