March 25, 2010
The new species, named Cnemaspis neangthyi after Neang Thy, a Cambodian conservationist, was first collected during a field survey led by Dr Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in 2007. It is characterized by a broad flattened head and cryptic coloration that helps it blend in with rock surfaces and tree trunks.
Neang, who runs FFI’s Cardamom Mountains Research Group and works for Cambodia's Ministry of Environment, said the discovery highlights the need to study and protect the Cardamom region, a biodiversity trove that is under threat from agriculture, fire, and illegal logging.
“Maybe this [discovery] will also help to involve Cambodian people more in the conservation of species, landscapes and habitats," he said in a statement. "If we do not do this, many animals in Cambodia may soon become extinct and we will not be able to show them to our children."
Cnemaspis neangthyi gecko. Photo by Lee Grismer.
The Cardamom Mountains region has been named a Global Biodiversity Hotspot and is home to at least 62 globally threatened animal and 17 globally threatened tree species. According to FFI, the Greater Cardamoms cover over 2 million hectares of forest, making it one of the largest remaining blocks of evergreen forest in Southeast Asia.
"Biological surveys of the southwestern Cardamom Mountains have shown the area to be one of the most important areas for biodiversity conservation in Asia," said FFI in a press release, noting that only 10 percent of the area has been explored to date.
“There are likely many more species to be discovered in the Cardamom Mountains,” said Neang.
The Cardamoms include three protected areas: Phnom Samkos Wildife Sanctuary, Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary, and Central Cardamoms Protected Forest.