New Species Discoveries in the Greater Mekong 2021 & 2022Read the report now
Since the early 1980s, our work has included wildlife protection, monitoring and reintroductions, reducing deforestation and conversation of wetlands, and reducing ecological footprint from human consumption, agricultural production and urban settlements and supporting identification and establishment of protected areas and setting up forest and marine habitat protection strategies.
The Greater Mekong region encompasses some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world and is inhabited by more than 20,000 species of plants, 1,300 bird species, more than a thousand species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 500 mammal species.
Almost 3,000 new species have been described here since 1997. Its transboundary landscapes hold some of the largest contiguous forest habitats in the world and are priority areas for WWF’s tiger conservation work. Many rare, threatened, and endemic species occur in the region, including crested gibbons, forest pheasants, box turtles, the Irrawaddy dolphin and the elusive saola.
The natural biomes of this region also serve as a source of food and livelihoods for millions of people. What’s more, the Mekong River — which is home to at least 1,100 freshwater species — accounts for up to 25% of the global freshwater catch making it the world's largest inland fishery. Few places on the Earth demonstrate so dramatically the fundamental dependence of humans on natural ecosystems.
Everyday life for the people of the Mekong basin is intertwined with the natural rhythm of the river. Its floodplains and fisheries support food security and livelihoods. Its calm waters are used in recreation and for transportation. It replenishes crops, livestock and households, and for centuries, has brought meaning to an array of cultures.
The region is at a crossroads. Unprecedented threats from an expanding human footprint, consumption and unsustainable economic development activities makes conservation work here especially urgent, and hugely challenging.
Rapid infrastructure development, extractive industries, forest and wetland conversion for agricultural production threaten the survival of species and functioning of natural ecosystems, risking the livelihoods of millions who rely on them. The Greater Mekong Region is among the hardest hit by unsustainable development, having lost more than a third of its natural forest cover since the 1970s to reach the present state of having only 30% forest cover across the region. Meanwhile, tiger numbers in the region have plummeted in the past three decades.
The movements of wildlife, the spread of natural habitats, the Tenasserim and Annamite mountain ranges, the Mekong river, all span political boundaries. Similarly, the threats to them — the commodity supply chains, the pollution, the climate change impacts, the electricity generation from dams and coal-power plants and their flows, illegal timber supply chains and wildlife trafficking networks — all span political boundaries. Therefore, we use a regional approach to address these social and environmental threats more holistically.
To secure a future where people support nature conservation and practice sustainable use of natural resources, WWF offices across the region continue to work with governments, private sector and civil society partners to restore and conserve wildlife and ecosystems, promote nature-based solutions, enable sustainable production and consumption and empower communities in natural resource governance.