New Species in the Himalayas

At least 353 new species have been discovered in the Eastern Himalayas between 1998 and 2008, equating to an average of 35 new species finds every year for the last 10 years. The discoveries include 242 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, 2 birds and 2 mammals, and at least 61 new invertebrates.
Front cover of the report / ©: WWF
The Eastern Himalayas - New Species Discoveries - Living Himalayas Initiative - Where Worlds Collide
© WWF
The Eastern Himalayas is at the crossroads of  2 continental plates represented by 2 biogeographical realms: the lowland Indo-Malayan Realm and to the north, the elevated Palearctic Realm.

The meeting of these worlds has created one of the biologically richest areas on Earth.

Spanning Bhutan, the north-eastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, North Bengaland Sikkim, the far north of Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and southern parts of Tibet, the regionincludes 4 Global 200 ecoregions with their critical landscapes of international biologicalimportance.

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

The region supports a high density of the Bengal tiger and is the last bastion for the charismatic greaterone-horned rhinoceros.

Even today the rugged, and largely inaccessible landscape of the Eastern Himalayas, hides the real extent of the region’s biodiversity, with extraordinary new species continuing to bediscovered year-on-year.

Between 1998 and 2008, at least 353 new species have beendiscovered in the Eastern Himalayas.

That's 35 new species finds on average every year for the last 10 years.The extent of the new species finds place the Eastern Himalayas on a par with more well knownbiological hotspots such as Borneo.


What's in the report

This report celebrates these unique and fascinating species discoveries.

It also highlights growing pressures on the ecosystems and species as a consequence of unsustainabledevelopment in the region.

Despite protection efforts, in the last half-century, this area of South Asia has faced a wave of pressures as a result of population growth and the increasingdemand for commodities by global and regional markets.

The host of threats include
  • forest destruction as a result of unsustainable and illegal logging,
  • agriculture,
  • unsustainable fuelwood collection,
  • overgrazing by domestic livestock,
  • illegal poaching and wildlife trade,
  • mining,
  • pollution,
  • hydropower development, and
  • poorly planned infrastructure.

Under threat from climate change
The region is also among the most vulnerable to global climate change, which will amplify the impacts of these threats.

Only 25% of the original habitats in the region remain intact and 163 species that live in theEastern Himalayas are considered globally threatened.

Many of WWF’s established priority conservation landscapes are being impacted by the current unsustainable development in the Eastern Himalayas, and so we consider that a newlayer of strategic action is needed to augment our long standing field projects.

This includes asking the governments of Bhutan, India and Nepal to commit to a shared tripartite vision that recognises the global significance of the region and supports the implementation of a unified conservation and sustainable development plan that ensures the landscapes within the Eastern Himalayas are connected.

By promoting a shared sustainable development vision, WWF believes that real progress can be made in tackling huge poverty-impacting issues in the Eastern Himalayas such as climate change, deforestation, the illegal wildlife and timber trade, poor infrastructure development, and thereby secure the livelihoods, subsistence and fresh water essential to millions of peoplethroughout the region.

Only a concerted focus and a shared vision can maintain a living Himalayas, for people and nature, whether discovered or yet to be discovered.
  •  / ©: bhutanclimatesummit.org.bt

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