Bengaluru: The rabbit-sized Vietnam mouse-deer was last sighted in 1990. It was thought to have been lost to poaching in Vietnam. But ecologists have now unveiled photographic evidence of mouse-deer captured via a series of camera traps in the southern region of the country.
The first mammal to be rediscovered as a part of a Global Wildlife Conservation project to find lost species was on the list of the top 25 “most wanted lost species” for the project.
The findings were published in Nature Ecology and Evolution Monday. The team included researchers from Global Wildlife Conservation in Austin, the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, and other institutions.
Not much is known about the species, which was first documented over a century ago in 1910. Only four members of the species were documented then. A fifth was recorded in 1990 after a specimen was confiscated from a hunter, before the species was declared lost to poaching. However, the animal was not officially declared extinct because no one was really looking for it.
The mouse-deer is grey in colour and also called silver-backed chevrotain.
How the Vietnam mouse-deer was rediscovered
To rediscover the Vietnam mouse-deer, the ecologists working on the wildlife conservation project first set about interviewing locals to find out if any of them had spotted animals that matched the description of what they were looking for. Using the information given by local residents, in and around the coastal city of Nha Trang, the scientists spread out 30 motion-activated cameras in areas where the mammal was likely to be spotted.
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
For five months, the cameras snapped away and captured images of 208 instances of the mouse-deer coming within view. A total of 275 photos were captured with initial cameras.
Afterwards, the team set up an additional 29 cameras in the same location for five more months, recording 1,881 photographs.
“The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain provides a 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, Vietnam, said in a statement.
Observations about the animal
The Vietnam mouse-deer is neither mouse nor deer but falls under the category of hoofed mammals known as ungulates. Other ungulates, which are found in various shapes and sizes, include horses, giraffes, camels, pigs, deer, and even rhinos.
The Vietnam mouse-deer is the smallest known ungulate. The creature is found only in Vietnam.
From current observations, it appears that the animal is primarily active during the day and prefers to remain solitary. The camera images recorded individual animals 97 per cent of the time, and with partners for only 3 per cent of the time. The animals are shy and walk on the tips of their hooves. They weigh less than 5kg and have two tiny fangs.
The researchers still haven’t been able to determine the population size due to lack of data, but have stated that the animals seem to be present in large numbers in the area they surveyed.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.