(Reuters) - A wildly-colored gecko, a fish that looks like a gherkin, and a monkey with an Elvis-like hairstyle are among the more than 200 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, environmental group WWF said on Monday.
The area's diversity is so astonishing that a new species is found every two days, but regional cooperation and decision-making must take centre stage to preserve its richness, the group added.
The dangers posed to local wildlife were highlighted earlier this year, when WWF said that Vietnam's Javan rhinos have been poached into extinction.
"While the 2010 discoveries are new to science, many are already destined for the dinner table, struggling to survive in shrinking habitats and at risk of extinction," said Stuart Chapman, Conservation Director of WWF Greater Mekong, in a statement.
Among the new species highlighted in the report "Wild Mekong" is a gecko with bright orange legs, a yellow neck, and a blue-gray body with yellow bars on its bright orange sides, discovered on an island in southern Vietnam.
Then there is a black and white snub-nosed monkey whose head sports an Elvis-like hairstyle, found in Myanmar's mountainous Kachin state. Locals say the animal can be spotted with its head between its knees in rainy weather as it tries to keep rain from running into its upturned nose.
Other featured creatures among the 208 new finds include a lizard that reproduces via cloning without the need for male lizards, a fish that resembles a gherkin, and five species of carnivorous pitcher plant, some of which lure in and consume rats and even birds.
"Mekong governments have to stop thinking about biodiversity protection as a cost and recognise it as an investment to ensure long-term stability," Chapman said.
"The region's treasure trove of biodiversity will be lost if governments fail to invest in the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity, which is so fundamental to ensuring long-term sustainability in the face of global environmental change."
Despite restrictions, trade in wildlife remains an active threat to a range of endangered animals in the region, with some hunted because body parts -- such as rhinoceros horns -- are coveted ingredients in traditional Asian medicine.
Others, such as Mekong dolphins, face threats from fishing gear such as gill nets and illegal fishing methods, prompting the WWF in August to warn that one dolphin population in the river was at high risk of extinction.
The Greater Mekong region covers Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.