A rare deer-like creature was photographed in the wild for the first time ever. The creature hadn’t been spotted by scientists in the wild in over 30 years before resurfacing in Vietnam.
The creature is a silver-backed chevrotain, though it is also often called the Vietnamese mouse deer. Measuring roughly the same dimensions as a rabbit, the chevrotain is as adorable as it is rare.
Why is this Deer so Rare, and is it Actually a Deer?
The adorable little creature is actually not a deer or a mouse, despite the colloquial name. Chevrotains are the smallest hoofed mammal on earth, and are exceedingly rare in the modern era. They have small fangs, appear to walk on their “toes,” and have a silvery sheen over their fur. For over a century, the chevrotain has been almost a myth.
First described by witnesses in 1910, another sighting was reported in 1990. Until recently, the elusive woodland creature had never been photographed, so few even knew that the creature existed. A team set up a series of trap cameras that would trigger if certain conditions were met, allowing them to see the creature up-close.
This is a huge step to preserving the dwindling numbers of the chevrotains in the wild.
An Nguyen, a scientist who is part of the chevrotain conservation effort that organized the photograph traps, said this discovery was thrilling. “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.”
Since the chevrotain has been barely glimpsed in the past, it’s a huge step towards ensuring its population is protected to simply see what they look like. The traps have also yielded valuable data about where their populations in the wild can be found. This, in turn, will make it easier for researchers to observe and defend their natural habitats.
Threats to the local wildlife in Vietnam include loss of habitat to urbanization and widespread poaching by criminals. Researchers hope these images will help motivate further funding and interest in preserving Vietnam’s biodiversity.