Wildlife of the Greater Mekong

It’s not just tigers and giant catfish. The Greater Mekong also hosts a self-cloning skink and a fish with vampire fangs, among many other recently discovered species.

What these extraordinary creatures have in common is an uncertain future in the face of the region’s rapid development.
 / ©: David HULSE / WWF-Canon
Saola or Vu quang ox (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis); Hanoi, Vietnam.
© David HULSE / WWF-Canon
Since 1997, more than 1,500 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong subregion, with 208 new species identified in 2010 alone, including a new monkey, a self-cloning skink, five carnivorous plants, and a unique leaf warbler.

Find out about ongoing new species discoveries in the Greater Mekong

The region is home to numerous endangered species, including the Indochinese tiger, the Asian elephant, the Irrawaddy dolphin, and the Mekong giant catfish. In particular, the Greater Mekong region is rich in endemic species, including the saola, one of the world’s rarest mammals.

Most of this globally-important biodiversity extends across national borders, making regional cooperation vital for its long-term conservation.

Species decline

The number of species and their population sizes are declining in the Greater Mekong region. For example, in 2011, WWF and the International Rhino Foundation confirmed the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) after the last remaining individual was shot in 2010 and its horn removed. This extinction is a sad example of the broader extinction crisis facing the region. Perhaps one of the most widely recognized species illustrating the gravity of the situation, is the tiger.

Tiger woes

Over the last century, 95% of the world’s tiger population has vanished due to shrinking habitats, expanding human populations, increasing demand for traditional medicines and wild meat, and a decrease in prey species.

More about tigers in the Greater Mekong region

In the Greater Mekong region, only 350 Indochinese tigers remain, down from 1200 in 1998, and many remnant populations are small and isolated.

Dam troubles

For many Mekong fish species, essential migration routes are being disrupted by hydropower development.

► The difficulty with dams

More than 35% of the Lower Mekong Basin fish harvest is made up of long-distance migratory species, and the combined effects of dams already built on tributaries and the loss of floodplains to agriculture is expected to reduce fish catch by 150,000 to 480,000 tonnes between 2000 and 2015.

These problems may worsen, as 12 hydropower schemes have been proposed for the lower Mekong River.

FLAGSHIP SPECIES

Tiger
Asian elephant
Crested gibbon
Saola
Irrawaddy dolphin
Mekong giant catfish

► Find out more about these species

OTHER IMPORTANT SPECIES

Leopard
Douc Langur
Muntjac
Sun bear

► Find out more about these species


New species are still being discovered in the Greater Mekong.

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