Infotainment

Tiny cat-sized deer living in a forest in Vietnam

Tiny cat-sized deer living in a forest in Vietnam
Jan 7 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 1/7/2020 12:54:01 PM IST

 A miniature deer that was feared to have gone extinct after it was only sighted once in a century has been rediscovered in Southeast Asia.

The chevrotain, also known as the mouse-deer, is about the size of a domestic cat and dates back to the Stone Age when it was depicted in cave art. It was believed to have been lost to time until it was spotted in the wilds of Vietnam this year – for the first time in three decades.  Scientists have now filmed and photographed the species for the first time since 1990 when the last known specimen was killed - before then a sighting hadn’t been confirmed since 1907. The discovery could save other endangered animals being hunted out of existence to feed growing demand for bush meat. The silver-backed chevrotain is prized by by locals who use thin wire nooses - or snares - to catch it.  

Co-leader of the study, An Nguyen, a biologist at Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) in Austin, Texas, said: ‘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.

It’s the first rediscovery of a mammal on GWC’s 25 most wanted lost species list. His team conducted interviews with villagers to identify possible chevrotain sightings. They then used this local knowledge to place more than 30 motion-activated camera traps within a nearby forested habitat.

Six months of observations identified almost 300 independent detections of the animal. The number of distinct individuals is unknown, reports Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The team then set up another 29 cameras in the same area, this time recording 1,881 photographs of the chevrotain over another five months. Co-lead author Andrew Tilker, also of GWS, described the tiny ungulate as ‘about the size of a house cat.’ 

‘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 biologists, who are also doctoral students at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, tracked it down in the dry forests outside Nha Trang. 

(Milly Vincent for Mailonline)

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