139 new species were identified in South East Asian region in 2014, including four moths named after Thai princesses and a new mammal.
Gracixalus lumarius frog, one of many new species identified in the Greater Mekong which covers Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. Photograph: WWF
A “dementor” wasp named after the Harry Potter creatures, a stick insect more than half a metre long, and a colour-changing thorny frog are among new species discovered in South East Asia’s Greater Mekong region.
The discoveries also include a bent-toed gecko which is the 10,000th reptile to be recorded on Earth, a feathered coral whose nearest relatives are found in Africa and four moths named after Thai princesses.
A total of 139 new species were identified in the region in 2014, including a new mammal - a long-toothed pipistrelle bat - as well as 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 16 amphibians and nine fish found by scientists.
It brings the total number of species found in the Greater Mekong, which covers Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, between 1997 and 2014 to 2,216 or an average of three new plants or creatures a week.
Phryganistria Heusii Yentuensis, a huge stick insect Photograph: Jerome Constant/WWF
But many of the newly-discovered species are already at risk from threats such as destruction of their habitat, poaching or the illegal wildlife trade, a Magical Mekong report by wildlife charity WWF warned.
Teak Seng, conservation director for WWF-Greater Mekong, said: “The Greater Mekong’s unique ecosystems are truly the gift that keeps on giving, providing sanctuary for a treasure trove of species and critical benefits for millions of people across the region.
“As Magical Mekong reveals, the scientists behind these discoveries feel they are racing against the clock to document them and strongly advocate for their protection before they disappear.”
The Ampulex dementor wasp from Thailand, which was named by popular vote after the soul-sucking creatures in the Harry Potter books, paralyses its prey with venom before eating them alive.
A stick insect measuring 54cm (21 inches), making it - for now - the world’s second largest insect, was found in Vietnam, while a stealthy wolf snake with a “flying bat” pattern on its skin which helps it blend into trees and mosses was discovered in Cambodia.
Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi Photograph: Truong Ngyuen/WWF
The gecko which became the 10,000th reptile known to science when it was discovered a few hundred metres from a cornfield carved into the forest, was one of 16 bent toed gecko species found in the Greater Mekong in 2014 alone.
And the thorny frog found in Vietnam breeds in pools of water in plants and changes colour from pink and yellow at night to a dull brown during the day.
Experts warned of the threats facing many of the newly discovered species.
A newly-discovered crocodile newt in Burma is threatened by a construction project and demand from the international pet trade, while two new orchid species were also found being traded in Bangkok, Thailand.
The long-toothed pipistrelle bat, which has long fangs, faces the loss of its habitat in Laos to dam construction and quarrying.
Carlos Drews, WWF global species programme director, said: “While species are being discovered, intense pressures are taking a terrible toll on the region’s species.
“One wonders how many species have disappeared before they were even discovered.”