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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A fish with curving vampire fangs, a gecko that looks as if it's wearing lipstick and a carnivorous plant more than seven meters (23 feet) high may sound like creatures from a nightmare but they are real.
They are just three of 145 new species found in the area surrounding Southeast Asia's Mekong River in 2009 and highlighted in a WWF International report issued on Wednesday ahead of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, this month.
The diversity of the region, so rich that an average of three new species were discovered each week last year, also highlights the need for action to ensure these new finds survive, WWF International said.
Among the animals highlighted in "New Blood: Greater Mekong New Species Discoveries 2009" is the Dracula minnow, with bulging eyes and two sharp fangs curving from its low-slung jaw. Luckily, the fish only grows to a maximum of 16.7 mm (0.7 inch).
Cuter by far is the lipstick gecko, barely big enough to perch on a finger, with a dark barred pattern across its lips suggestive of cosmetics.
Other featured creatures include a fangless snake, a frog that chirps like a cricket, and a pitcher plant that traps insects and grows to a height of over seven meters.
"This rate of discovery is simply staggering in modern times," said Stuart Chapman, Conservation Director of WWF Greater Mekong, in a statement.
"Each year, the new species count keeps going up, and with it, so too does the responsibility to ensure this region's unique biodiversity is conserved."
The report said these discoveries highlight the Greater Mekong's immense biodiversity but they also pinpoint the fragility of the region's diverse habitats and species.
The WWF report cited the likely local extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam as one tragic indicator of the decline of biodiversity in recent times.
The Greater Mekong region covers Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.