Published: Tue, November 12, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Vietnam deer rediscovered after nearly 30 years, Europe News & Top Stories

Vietnam deer rediscovered after nearly 30 years, Europe News & Top Stories

That was the case with the Vietnam mouse-deer, also known as the silver-backed chevrotain, a creature that was once considered the smallest living hoofed animal species, but had not been seen for three full decades. "Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don't lose it again, and we're moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it", Nguyen said. The researchers hope that this rediscovery will raise awareness among the citizens of the region and make it easier to gain support for additional protective efforts to ensure the rare species can continue to exist. "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", said An Nguyen, a scientist and expedition team leader at Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), reports The Guardian. The small deer-like creatures were last seen in the early 1990s and were feared to have been wiped out by extensive land clearing and poaching across its known habitat. 29 cameras were set up in these areas to capture them.

The discovery was detailed in a study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution on Monday. The UN estimates that 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.

So a team from GWC, Southern Institute of Ecology, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, and local communities set three camera traps for a five-month period in a part of southern Vietnam where possible sightings may have occurred.

Before the recent discovery, a total of five silver-backed chevrotains had been seen in only two confirmed instances: in 1910, when researchers acquired four specimens; and in 1990, when a joint Vietnamese-Russian expedition obtained a silver-backed chevrotain that had been killed by a hunter.

According to Andrew Tilker, Asian Species Officer at the GWC, the biggest challenge in trying to rediscover the species was deciding where to start the search.

Before the study's success, the species existence was always on the minds of local researchers.

"We had these two historical localities separated by quite some distance-one in the southern part of Vietnam and the other much further north", said Tilker.

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"It is an fantastic feat to go from complete lack of knowledge of the wildlife of the Greater Annamites 25 years ago to now having this question mark of the silver-backed chevrotain resolved", said Barney Long, GWC senior director of species conservation, in a statement.

One of the "25 most wanted" lost species, the silver-backed chevrotain is a snaggle-toothed, deer-like species that is the size of a rabbit and walks on its tippy toes.

The mystery of the Vietnamese mouse-deer has been solved.

Tilker also warned that just because this species was found relatively easily, it doesn't mean it's not under threat.

"The Silver-backed Chevrotain went from being lost for at least 30 years, to found really within a matter of months".

"We're careful not to assume their species is thriving across a wide area", Tilker said.

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