Huge new flying frog discovered in Vietnam

By Alyce Taylor 9 January 2013
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An Australian biologist has uncovered a new species of flying frog in Vietnam.

A NEW SPECIES OF flying frog has been discovered close to Vietnam’s largest city, surprising researchers.

Dr Jodi Rowely, a biologist from the Australian Museum who led the discovery, was stunned to find the 10cm frog less than 100km from Ho Chi Minh City, one of South East Asia’s largest urban centres with a population of over 9 million people.

“To discover a previously unknown species of frog, I typically have to climb rugged mountains, scale waterfalls and push my way through dense and prickly rainforest vegetation,” says Jodi.

“I certainly didn’t expect to find a new species of frog sitting on a fallen tree in lowland forest criss-crossed by a network of paths made by people and water buffalo, and completely surrounded by a sea of rice paddies,” says Jodi.

New amphibian found near Ho Chi Minh City

The frog is bright green with a white belly and has been named Helen’s tree frog (Rhacophorus helenae) after Jodi’s mother. The discovery was published last month in The Journal of Herpetology.

Jodi said the large frog has likely evaded biologists until now by spending most of its time out of sight, in the canopy of large trees. The frog has webbed hands and feet like parachutes, allowing it to glide from tree to tree.

To date, the species had only been found in two patches of lowland forest close to Ho Chi Minh City. Lowland forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world. In 2011 the Javan Rhino which relied on lowland forests was confirmed extinct in Vietnam.

“The new species is at great risk due to ongoing habitat loss and degradation – the greatest threat to amphibians throughout Southeast Asia – but hopefully it has been discovered just in time to help protect it,” says Jodi.

Helen’s tree frog (Rhacophorus helenae). (Credit: Jodi Rowley)