An Adorable Deer Missing for 30-Years Has Been Rediscovered!

petsabs - An Adorable Deer Missing for 30-Years Has Been Rediscovered!

When this silver-backed chevrotain was discovered in the 20th century, it took sweetness to a whole new level. The deer resembled a mouse and was about as big as a cat. Traipsing around Vietnam, the huggable herbivore also sported tiny fangs. Then, in 1990, the creature disappeared.

For almost thirty years, the fate of the species hung in limbo. Nobody could say for sure that the Vietnamese mouse-deer was extinct. Especially since the locals reported seeing small animals with the distinctive silver line running down their backs. This attracted the attention of the Global Wildlife Conservation’s Search for Lost Species initiative. In 2019, scientists set out to trap the animals. 

As reported by Live Science, interviews with rangers and villagers narrowed the sightings down to the Greater Annamites. Things started to look good. The area was covered with tropical forests thick enough hide miniature deer for decades. The team focused on the places described by witnesses and then rigged the trees with camera-traps. The device is priceless to conservationists. Activated by movement, it photographs elusive animals without causing them any harm. Indeed, most animals that star in the sneaky pictures have no idea that the cameras are even there. 

The best the researchers could hope for was a single image. This would provide sufficient evidence that the mouse-deer was still alive. The camera-traps were left to do their thing and after five months the scientists returned to check on the results. Incredibly, between a horde of photographs, was the silver-backed chevrotain. Not just once or twice, but 275 times. Encouraged by the finding, the traps were left in place and additional cameras were installed in other areas. Another five months went by. This time the yield was even greater; an astonishing 1,881 images of mouse-deer browsing and even moving in pairs.

A missing species rediscovered – a joyful fact but also the only certainty in this case. There’s no way of knowing how big their population is. Despite the avalanche of photos, the researchers couldn’t tell the individuals apart. In other words, a single deer could have posed multiple times and made it look like a small herd was meandering through the forest. Although there were definitely more than a few, looking healthy and appearing in groups, it’s difficult to assess their conservation status. Without better data, the species cannot be classified as endangered or stable. Even the deer’s true territory and origins are unknown, although most believe the species is native to Vietnam. 

The snaring of wildlife is rampant in Vietnam. It’s certainly plausible that one of the species being culled in this cruel way is the silver-backed chevrotain. Unfortunately, how often this happens is another hazy fact connected to the species. Conservationists plan to find those numbers and develop strategies to protect the tiny miracle before it vanishes for a second time into extinction.

Image credits: SIE/GWC/Leibniz-IZW/NCNP / Andrew Tilker

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