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World's smallest ungulates spotted in Vietnam after nearly 30 years

14 November 2019 | 07:07:00 AM

For the first time in almost three decades, the silver-backed chevrotain or mouse deer that is thought to be on the verge of extinction has been spotted in a jungle in Vietnam.



A silver-backed chevrotain is spotted by a camera trap on June 21, 2018 (Source: AFP/VNA)


According to a study published on November 11 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the species, Tragulus versicolor, was last recorded in 1990 when Vietnamese and Russian researchers obtained a specimen killed by a hunter.

Recently, based on information from local residents, scientists set camera traps for five months in a jungle area near the central coastal city of Nha Trang, resulting in 275 photos of the species. Later, they set up another 29 cameras in the same area, recording 1,881 photos of the chevrotain over five months.

The silver-backed chevrotain is among the top 25 most wanted lost species in the Search for Lost Species of the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) report.

Despite their common English names, chevrotains are neither mice nor deer, but the world's smallest ungulates (hoofed mammals). They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs. Chevrotains typically weigh less than 5kg.

The animal was first described in 1910 when four individuals were found near Nha Trang. The fifth individual was collected from a hunter in central Vietnam in 1990.

According to Andrew Tilker, Asian species officer at GWC, there is very little information about this animal. The re-discovery of the species doesn’t mean it is not threatened, so swift actions are needed to conserve them.


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