WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- For the first time in three decades, a tiny fanged deer had been seen and photographed by a research team in a forested area in southern Vietnam.
- Called the silver-backed chevrotain, the Vietnamese mouse deer is the smallest ungulate in the world that has been included in an environmental group’s top 25 lost species.
- Before the recent rediscovery, the miniature animal was last seen in 1990.
An unusually tiny deer with a silver sheen that conservationists thought to be extinct had been spotted for the first time in Vietnam after nearly 30 years.
The silver-backed chevrotain, also known as the Vietnamese mouse deer, had been sighted only five times in the wilderness before researchers caught sight of it outside Nha Trang, a coastal rainforest where poaching snares are prevalent, according to the environmental group Global Wildlife Conservation.
Dubbed a “miniature fanged deer,” the chevrotain typically weighs below 10 pounds and is as small as a rabbit. However, they are neither deer nor mice despite the name, but ungulates, or the smallest hoofed animals in the world.
GWC says the silver-backed chevrotain was first described by scientists in 1910 when four samples of Vietnamese mouse deer were collected. It was only until 1990 when the fifth was spotted. Since then, no others had been sighted. The animals had since been listed on the group’s top 25 most wanted lost species.
“For so long this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination. Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again,” said Vietnamese biologist An Nguyen, an associate conservation scientist with GWC and a PhD student with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
For five months, GWC and its team set up camera traps in forested areas after learning from locals and forest rangers that chevrotains with grayish backs had been spotted in southern Vietnam.
In a statement, Nguyen, who also led the expedition wrote “We had no idea what to expect, so I was surprised and overjoyed when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a chevrotain with silver flanks.”
The team was able to capture 275 photos of the mammal, after which 1,881 photographs followed after the team set up another 29 cameras in the same area.
The team of researchers from Global Wildlife Conservation together with the Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research suggested that further studies be made on the threats in the regions where the chevrotains live in order to ensure their protection.
Details about the findings were published on Monday in the peer-reviewed Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Source: USA Today