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Sneezing monkey, ‘walking’ fish found in Himalayas: WWF

NEW DELHI: A monkey that sneezes when it rains and a “walking” fish are among more than 200 species discovered in the fragile eastern Himalayas in recent years, according to conservation group WWF.

WWF has compiled a survey of wildlife discovered by scientists across Bhutan, northeast India, Nepal, north Myanmar and southern Tibet in a bid to raise awareness of the threats facing the ecologically sensitive region.

The species include what the WWF described as a blue-coloured “walking snakehead fish”, which can breathe air, survive on land for four days and slither up to 400 metres (a quarter of a mile) on wet ground.

Others include an ornate red, yellow and orange pit viper that could pass for a piece of jewellery, a fresh-water “dracula” fish with fangs and three new types of bananas.

In the forests of northern Myanmar, scientists learned in 2010 of a black and white monkey with an upturned nose that causes it to sneeze when it rains.

On rainy days they often sit with their heads tucked between their knees to avoid getting water in their snub noses.

The 211 new species discovered between 2009 and 2014 include 133 plants including orchids, 26 kinds of fish, 10 amphibians, 39 invertebrates, one reptile, one bird and a mammal.

In its report, WWF warned of a series of threats to the species including population growth, deforestation, overgrazing, poaching, mining and hydropower development.

Just 25 percent of the region’s original habitats remain intact, and hundreds of species are considered to be globally threatened, the report released this week said.

“The challenge is to preserve our threatened ecosystems before these species, and others yet unknown, are lost,” said Sami Tornikoski, who heads the WWF Living Himalayas Initiative.

The report calls for more sustainable development in the region, singling out a need for greener hydropower plants and government assistance for communities to adapt to climate change.

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