© CK Wong
Greater Mekong
© Thadoe Wai / WWF-Myanmar

New Species Discoveries in the Greater Mekong 2021 & 2022

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Through the Greater Mekong Programme, with offices in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, WWF is working with government, industry and NGO partners to secure a future where people's daily actions support biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

© WWF Greater Mekong

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. 


Our flagship species

Asian Elephants

Less than 5,000 remaining in the wild in Greater Mekong


One of the world’s most recently described and rarest large mammals


Less than 200 tigers left now across the Greater Mekong, having plummeted across the region with many local extinctions and three national-level extinctions in the past three decades 


About 45 species occur in the Greater Mekong region, 90% of which are threatened with extinction as they are heavily traded for food, medicine and as pets

New Species Discoveries

An extraordinary 380 new species of vascular plants and vertebrate animals were discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2021 and 2022.

People and communities

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.

What WWF is doing

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.


© WWF-Viet Nam

Sustainable and Legal Forest Supply Chains

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© Paul Forster / WWF

Multi-actor Rubber Partnerships

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© Simon de Trey White / WWF-UK

Deforestation, Forest Fragmentation and Pandemics

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© Shruti Suresh / WWF-Cambodia

Voices for Mekong Forests

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© Adam Oswell

Climate Change Mitigation

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© Shiri Ram/WWF-Pacific

Plastic Smart Cities in Southeast Asia

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© Santiago Gibert/WWF

Free-flowing Rivers

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© Adam Oswell / WWF-Thailand

Asian Flyways

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© Kelsey Hartman / WWF-Greater Mekong

Resilient Asian Deltas

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© Adam Oswell / WWF

Bankable Water Solutions

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© WWF-Thailand

River Dolphins

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© WWF / Simon Rawles

Leading the Change

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© WWF / Greg Funnell

Mekong for the Future

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© KWCI / WWF-Myanmar

Carbon and Biodiversity in the Central Annamites

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© Michel Gunther / WWF

Tackling Wildlife Trafficking in the Golden Triangle

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Closing Asia’s Elephant Ivory Markets

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© WWF-Myanmar

Ending Wildlife Trade and Consumption

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© WWF-Vietnam / Denise Stilley

Halting Southeast Asia's Snaring Crisis

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