The Vietnamese crocodile lizard lives in freshwater and forest habitats in south China and northern Vietnam and is threatened by habitat destruction. Photograph: Thomas Ziegler/WWF/PA
They also include an extremely rare crocodile lizard, two species of mole living among a network of streams and rivers, and a vibrantly coloured frog which is one of five new species discovered in the same forest in northern Vietnam. This beautiful lizard with a fire red head and a yellow and black belly has been confirmed a separate subspecies of lizard after more than a decade of study. The Vietnamese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis), which can be found in northern Vietnam, is a subspecies of the Chinese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus), found only in the Hunan, Guangxi and Guizhou Provinces of southern China.
According to WWF’s regional representative for Greater Mekong, Stuart Chapman, the discovery of “more than two new species a week, and 2,500 in the past 20 years, speaks to how incredibly important the Greater Mekong is. The reptile was discovered by Mona van Schingen, Minh Duc Le, Hanh Thi Ngo, Cuong The Pham, Qyunh Quy Ha, Truong Quang Nguyen, and Thomas Ziegler back in 2003 in northern Vietnam. It was confirmed as a separate subspecies in 2016, but is now threatened by coal mining, habitat destruction and collection for the pet trade. It is estimated that less than 200 individuals remain in the wild.
Also noted by Chapman is the fact that the species in the Greater Mekong deserve protection from unscrupulous collectors who are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species.
Illegal wildlife markets in the region operated “with impunity in open view” so it was critical that governments improved enforcement against poaching and closed the markets, he said.