Two fish, three mammals, 11 amphibians, 11 reptiles and 88 plants. That's the exciting haul of new species discovered by scientists last year in the Greater Mekong region, one of the world's most significant biodiversity hotspots. [Scroll down for photos!]

The discoveries have just been revealed in a new report – titled Stranger Species – from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which documents the species-finding efforts of hundreds of scientists from universities, conservation groups and research institutions from around the globe.

"The Greater Mekong region is already home to some of the most iconic species in the world, but every year this list grows longer as more and more scientists head to the region to climb mountains, wade through rivers, and muddy their boots in search of the mysteries that nature is still hiding," notes the report.

Sadly, the unique ecosystems of the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia are also under severe pressure from human activity, including overfishing, unsustainable development and harmful agricultural practices. Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are also taking their toll on biodiversity.

Each new discovery in the region – which is also home to 237 million people – underscores its immense conservation value. 

"More than two new species a week and 2,500 in the past 20 years speaks to how incredibly important the Greater Mekong is to global biodiversity," said Stuart Chapman, WWF-Greater Mekong Regional Representative. "While the threats to the region are many, these discoveries give us hope that species from the tiger to the turtle will survive."

Feast your eyes on some of the new finds:

Vietnamese crocodile lizard

Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis_2017_12_19.png
Image: Thomas Ziegler

The Vietnamese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis) spends its days in remote freshwater and evergreen forest habitats of South China and Northern Vietnam. It's so severely threatened by habitat destruction, coal mining and collection for the pet trade that scientists believe as few as 200 individuals remain in Vietnam. The research team that discovered it is now working on proposals for wildlife corridors and new reserves within the lizard's range.

Mountain horseshoe bat

Rhinolophus monticolus 2017_12_19.png
Image: Pipat Soisook

It took an entire decade for scientists to determine that this mountain horseshoe bat – now known as Rhinolophus monticolus – was in fact a new species. The animals, found in the evergreen forests of mountainous Laos and Thailand, sport a distinctive horseshoe-shaped facial structure (known as a noseleaf), which has earned them comparisons to a character from that famous "Star Wars" cantina scene.

Euroscaptor orlovi

Image: Alexei Abramov

Unlike many of the species that share its turf, this newly discovered mole has managed to evade the threats posed by people. Its one of two new mole species confirmed from the region, both staying relatively safe for now in their underground abodes. According to the researchers who found them, the tiny critters have maintained stable populations because they're not targeted by poachers, and because they're mostly found inside national parks and nature reserves. 

Snail-eating turtle

Malayemys isan_2017_12_19.png
Image: Montri Sumontha 

While many of the Mekong discoveries were made in remote forests and uncharted wilderness, researchers stumbled across this new snail-eating turtle (Malayemys isan) on well-trodden turf: a busy market in Thailand. After noticing specimens for sale that appeared to be an undescribed species, the researchers purchased them from local shopkeepers, who'd caught the animals in a nearby canal. The turtles are threatened by infrastructure such as dikes and dams. 

Odorrana mutschmanni

Odorrana mutschmanni_2017_12_19.png
Image: Truong Nguyen

Exploration in just one limestone karst forest in Northern Vietnam led to the discovery of not one, not two, but five new species of frog. Among them is the vibrantly coloured Odorrana mutschmanni. Sadly, because of their relatively small range, the amphibians are extremely vulnerable to any kind of environmental disturbance, and construction, expanding agriculture and illegal timber logging threaten their future survival.

Schistura kampucheensis

Image: Miloslav Petrtyl

This black-and-brown stripy find was made by a research team studying the diversity of freshwater fish in Cambodia. The tiny loach appears to inhabit only smaller streams, and not the country's larger – and more polluted – waterways, a habitat preference that's kept its populations stable for now. 



Top header image: Thomas Ziegler