353 new species found in Himalayas

KATHMANDU: At least 353 new species of animals, fish and plants have been discovered in the Eastern Himalayas between 1988 and 2008. The discoveries include 242 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds and two mammals, along with other 61 invertebrates.

In its compiled report of the species entitled 'Where World Collides', which was launched simultaneously in Nepal, Bhutan and India on Monday, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the species were found in the Eastern Himalayas -- a region spanning Nepal, Bhutan, north-eastern India, Tibet and far-north of Burma.

Tariq Aziz, chief, Living Himalayas Initiative program, WWF Nepal, said that the information about the species was published in scientific journals. “As it's far from the reach of general public, we thought to compile all the species and publish it for all.”

“Despite protection efforts, in the last half-century period, this area of South Asia has faced a wave of pressures as a result of population growth and the increasing demand for commodities by global and regional market,” he said.

The Eastern Himalayas, which are known to harbour a large number of flora and fauna, are one of the biologically richest areas on Earth and termed as global biodiversity hotspot. Now, however, the biological treasure trove has been threatened by climate change.

"It's great to hear about the species discovery but the Himalayas are the most vulnerable areas to climate change and the habitat of many species may be destroyed in near future so we should increase our concern toward it," said Dr Siddhartha Bajracharya of National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Studies show that only 25 % of the original habitats in the region remain intact. According to the experts, the rugged and largely inaccessible landscape of the Eastern Himalayas has made the biological surveys extremely difficult so the wildlife remained poorly surveyed and there are large areas biologically unexplored.

Among 94 species discovered in Nepal, 40 are plants, 36 invertebrates, seven fish, two frogs and nine lizards, Dr Karan Shah who discovered the Reptile named Japalura dasi said. Discovery of new species is a very lengthy process and one should have a great passion to get the achievement.”

The Himalayas are home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 freshwater fish.