The silver-backed chevrotain, commonly known as the Vietnam mouse deer, was sighted in Vietnam’s northwestern jungle for the first time in nearly 30 years. Its last-recorded sighting was back in 1990, according to a study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. The rare species was actually believed to have gone extinct or come very close to it.
Although nicknamed ‘mouse deer’, the species is neither mouse nor deer. In reality, they are the world’s smallest ungulates or hoofed mammals.
They are known to be shy and solitary, and typically weighing less than 10 pounds.
It had previously been on a list of 25 “most wanted” lost species compiled by Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).
It was Vietnamese biologist An Nguyen, a PhD student at the Leibnitze Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research who works with Global Wildlife Conservation, who sought to find the truth about the silver-backed chevrotain’s extinction. Along with colleagues Barney Long and Andrew Tilker, she held onto the hope that the silver-backed chevrotain may have a found a way to survive.
The team started by asking local villagers and forest rangers near the beach city of Nha Trang about their sightings of the silver-backed chevrotain. The species is made distinguishable by its small size — comparable to that of a rabbit — and silver sheen. It is also known to walk on the tip of their hooves and have 2 tiny fangs. There were enough reports consistent with the known description of a silver-backed chevrotain to warrant setting up 30 motion-activated cameras in nearby forests.
The camera traps were sustained for 5 months and collected a total of 275 photos featuring the mammal. Another 29 cameras were set up in the area where the silver-backed chevrotains were spotted by the cameras, resulting in another 1,881 photographs. However, Tilker warns that “just because we found this species relatively easily doesn’t mean it is not threatened”.
“This might represent the last population or one of a handful of populations, in which case we need to take action immediately to put conservation measures in place to ensure its survival.”
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