Neither mouse nor deer, this Vietnamese ungulate is shy, walks on the tips of its hooves and was just spotted in the wild for the first time in almost 30 years.
Environmental group Global Wildlife Conservation said the silver-backed chevrotain, known as the Vietnamese mouse deer, had been recorded in the wild only five times until a team of researchers recently rediscovered it outside Nha Trang.
Distinguished by its silver sheen, this chevrotain is the about the size of a rabbit and was known to live in an area of Vietnam rife with poaching snares, Global Wildlife Conservation says.
The silver-backed chevrotain, one of 10 chevrotain species, was first described in 1910 when four Vietnamese mouse deer were collected, Global Wildlife Conservation says. The fifth was not spotted until 1990, and no others had been seen since. The group had listed the animals on their list of top 25 most wanted lost species.
Wildlife experts heard from locals and park rangers that chevrotains with grayish backs had been seen in the area of southern Vietnam, so Global Wildlife Conservation and its team set up three camera traps for five months in forested areas.
“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,” An Nguyen, who led the expedition, said in a statement.
The team of researchers from Global Wildlife Conservation along with Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research published their findings Monday in the peer-reviewed Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Little is known about this chevrotain. Though called a mouse deer, the silver-backed chevrotain is actually an ungulate, meaning hoofed mammal. The small mammals weigh under 10 pounds and are the world’s smallest ungulates, Global Wildlife Conservation says. The solitary animals also have two fangs.
“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,” Nguyen said.
In the paper, the researchers recommend further camera-trapping in the area to record the chevrotains and determine the size of their population and distribution. The scientists also called for more research into the threats in the area where the chevrotains live to better protect them.
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