Mankind has made huge steps in science and technology, but while achieving so many things the environment was the one that took all the adverse effects of our prosperity. Many species become extinct as we have destroyed their natural habitat thus making them pay the toll for our technological progress. But, nature can sill amaze us and the species that we thought we have lost forever has surprisingly reappeared again.
A rare mammal that was believed to be extinct for decades, last seen in 1990, has appeared in the Vietnamese wilderness. This unique mammal was discovered in southern Vietnam, and the findings of its rediscovery were released in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
The “silver-backed chevrotain” is a small, deer-like species, having the size of a rabbit, which we all thought that we lost it from our planet. However, the researchers of GWC – Global Wildlife Conservation spotted it on video and photos, and that made this small deer the first mammal to be “rediscovered” in the Search for Lost Species. Namely, it belonged in the top 25 most wanted lost species.
An Nguyen, an associate conservation scientist for GWC and expedition team leader, stated the following:
“For those of us living in Vietnam and working in wildlife conservation, the question of whether the chevrotain was still out there and if so, where, has been nagging us for years. There was very little information available to point us in the right direction and we didn’t know what to expect.
So, I was surprised and overjoyed when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a mouse deer with silver flanks. 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, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it.”
The mouse-size deer weighs around 11 pounds, and walks on the tips of its hooves and has two tiny fangs. This makes it a very cute animal that is also very shy and solitary.
Andrew Tilker, the co-lead author and member of GWS, described this tiny mammal as “about the size of a house cat”. He said:
‘You could hold it in one hand. Because it is so small, it would under natural conditions have a number of predators, including any leopard, tiger or wild dog — or probably even a python. However, most of these species are now very rare or extinct in Vietnam. The silver-backed chevrotain’s only real predator now is man.”
The smallest ungulates in the world
The Vietnamese mouse deer – Chevrotain, was first described in 1910 during a Russian expedition to Vietnam. Yet, there were almost none data about the general ecology or conservation status of the species, and that made this species one of the highest mammal conservation priorities in the Greater Annamite Mountains.
The local villagers and government forest rangers reported the existence of this mouse deer and as a result of that researchers set three camera traps for 5 months in an area of southern Vietnam, in order to determine its existence. During this period cameras snapped 275 photos. In addition to these cameras, the researchers set up another 29 cameras in the area which offered them 1,881 more photographs of the chevrotain thus proving its existence.
The main reason for the chevrotain to become endangered species was again the human interference with nature which made it a victim to habitat loss. Plus, it was succumbed to intensive hunting for the illegal wildlife trade.
The head of the Southern Institute of Ecology’s Department of Zoology, Hoang Minh Duc, stated:
“The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain provides a big hope for the conservation of biodiversity, especially threatened species, in Vietnam. This also encourages us, together with relevant and international partners, to devote time and effort to further investigate and conserve Vietnam’s biodiversity heritage.”
This species is native in Asia, but there are also 10 known species of them in the world. Scientists cannot state fully that is a deer or a mouse, but consider it as the world’s smallest small ungulates (hoofed mammals).
Since their rediscovery the researchers are trying to find out how large is their population and for that purpose they have set camera surveying in two additional areas. This data will help them to develop a conservation action plan thereby protecting this species from extinction.
Their first goal is to lower and prevent the widespread use of snares that capture animals for the wildlife trade. Not only the silver-backed chevrotain will get protected but as well as other important species, including several mammals and birds, only found in the Greater Annamites Eco region, which are also endangered species.
The GWC senior director of species conservation, Barney Long, stated:
“It is an amazing 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.
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 traps, but one or two sites with sizable populations so that we can actually protect and restore the species.”