International conservation charity, ZSL, leads discovery of new frog species in Vietnam
Vietnam's second highest mountain, Mount Pu Ta Leng has been found to be home to a brand-new species of frog; the fifth to be discovered in the wider mountainous region in five years.
Named the Mount Pu Ta Leng leaf-litter frog (Leptobrachella graminicola), the latest amphibious addition was found in just one single valley on Mount Pu Ta Leng by a team of conservation biologists on an expedition led by international conservation charity ZSL’s (Zoological Society of London) EDGE Hero, Luan Thanh Nguyen.
The lofty terrain appears to be a hotspot of previously unknown amphibian species. Although the region has been subject to heavy deforestation over recent decades, fortunately the valley in which the new species was found is within the recently created, Bat Xat Nature Reserve.
With wide fringes around its toes setting it apart from other species in the area, the small brown frog looks similar to other leaf litter frogs - but despite its familiar appearance there is still much to discover about the species, and the role it plays in its wider habitat.
The new species was described in a study published in Zootaxa by an international team led by ZSL’s EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) Hero and included experts from the Asian Turtle Program of Indo-Myanmar Conservation and The Australian Museum and Hoang Lien National Park. The team believe the Mount Pu Ta Leng leaf-litter frog is likely forest dependent and restricted to the region, meaning it could be threatened by ongoing habitat destruction in the area and development for tourists.
ZSL EDGE Hero, and lead researcher on the paper, Luan Thanh Nguyen who is based in Vietnam, said: “This discovery is wonderful, but there are still many things that we need to do to make sure that the biodiversity in this region is protected. This includes further surveys to better understand the species distribution, ecology and threats.
“It was my great honour to work with the team to describe a new species discovered in my country. This frog is one of the amphibian groups that I have been personally fond of and spent a lot of time researching.
“We hope that this finding will bring more attention from local authorities and highlight the need for habitat protection and tourism management.”
Vietnam has the highest rate of amphibian species discovery in mainland southeast Asia, but there are relatively few conservation initiatives focussing on amphibians in the country. Previous discoveries led by ZSL EDGE teams include the Mount Fansipan horned frog in 2018, and the team hope that their continued work will help raise awareness to the importance of the region for amphibians.
ZSL Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians and paper co-author, Ben Tapley said: “This is an exciting new discovery, and one we hope will highlight the need to protect the remaining tracts of forests in the Hoang Lien Range - an area we've dubbed the Froggy Mountains due to all of the new species we've discovered there - and encourage future research on this new species and other newly described and poorly known amphibians.”
The Hoang Lien Range supports a diverse array of spectacular amphibians, many of which are found nowhere else on the planet.
Over half of the approximately 8,300 amphibian species currently known to us, were only discovered in and after 1960, and 113 of these have been from Vietnam since the year 2000 including 16 species from the Hoang Lien Range alone.
Tapley added: “As recent infrastructural developments in the Hoang Lien Range for the tourist industry have resulted in local habitat degradation, it is vital that a balance between biodiversity conservation and continued economic growth is struck. If more sustainable ecotourism initiatives are developed, this could help ensure that the incredible amphibian diversity located in the region, is safeguarded, before it’s too late.”
ZSL is urging world governments and policy makers to put nature at the heart of all decision making to truly tackle the global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, and will be calling on leaders to make this commitment at COP26 in Glasgow in November. You can support ZSL's world-leading conservation work by donating to us online.