Extremely Rare ‘Mouse-Deer’ Photographed in the Wild for the First Time Ever
It’s a creature so elusive it had never been photographed in the wild — until now.
The silver-backed chevrotain, sometimes called a “mouse-deer,” is a rabbit-sized hoofed mammal native to Vietnam.
Believed to be “lost to science” for almost three decades, the chevrotain became the subject of a research investigation in the Southeast Asian country in 2017, according to NPR.
Locals had reported seeing the mysterious creature — differentiated from its cousin the lesser chevrotain by its signature gray back — which led researchers to set up a series of cameras around the forest.
Their efforts proved successful.
“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,” expedition team leader, An Nguyen, of Global Wildlife Conservation said in a statement.
“For so long this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination,” he said.
“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.”
Conservationists @Global_Wildlife have found the chevrotain – also called the Vietnam mouse-deer – near the city of Nha Trang (📹📸 Southern Institute of Ecology/Global Wildlife Conservation/Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research/NCNP) https://t.co/0kGQrOM4da pic.twitter.com/ty7DkCpvjU
— New Scientist (@newscientist) November 12, 2019
The silver-backed chevrotain’s rediscovery was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
According to the study, researchers continued their camera-trapping campaign through July 2018, amassing thousands of silver-backed chevrotain photos.
The animal had previously been described in 1910, when four individuals were collected, and in 1990, when a Russian expedition was able to collect a fifth one, according to GWC’s news release.
“It is an amazing feat to go from complete lack of knowledge of the wildlife of the Greater Annamites [region] 25 years ago, to now having this question mark of the silver-backed chevrotain resolved,” Barney Long, GWC’s senior director of species conservation, said in the statement.
“But the work is only beginning with the rediscovery and initial protection measures that have been put in place—now we need to identify not just a few individuals on camera trap, but one or two sites with sizable populations so that we can actually protect and restore the species.”
Sadly, the silver-backed chevrotain faces a significant threat to its existence as a species.
“The greatest danger to the species is that exceptionally high snaring levels in Vietnam will push it into a silent extinction,” the authors of the study wrote.
“Without immediate follow-up action, there is a risk that the silver-backed chevrotain could be lost once again.”
Nevertheless, scientists are encouraged by the creature’s rediscovery.
“The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain provides big hope for the conservation of biodiversity, especially threatened species, in Vietnam,” Hoang Minh Duc, head of the Southern Institute of Ecology’s Department of Zoology, said.
“This also encourages us, together with relevant and international partners, to devote time and effort to further investigation and conservation of Vietnam’s biodiversity heritage.”
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