No wonder we lost track of it, it’s tiny.
There have been multiple instances throughout history wherein animal species long thought to be lost turn up alive and well. To quote Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “life, uh, finds a way.” One example of this odd little phenomenon is the silver-backed chevrotain, also known as the Vietnamese mouse deer, though contrary to what that nickname may imply, it is neither a mouse nor a deer. They’re actually ungulates, or hoofed mammals, like goats and sheep. They’re the world’s smallest ungulates, in fact, which probably contributed to the difficulty in finding them.
The last time a chevrotain was spotted in the wild was about twenty-five years ago, and that particular chevrotain was already dead, discovered by a local hunter. Researchers had long been worried about the chevrotain, who were consistent victims of both habitat loss and poaching. The animal has long held a spot on Global Wildlife Conservation’s official list of “missing” animal species. When these new specimens were spotted in the forests of southern Vietnam thanks to a wildlife camera, local animal researchers were ecstatic.
“For so long, this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination,” Vietnamese biologist An Nguyen told CNN. “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.”
After spotting the initial specimens and talking to the locals, researchers set up additional cameras. The result was over 1,800 photos of chevrotains, alive and well. However, the researchers have emphasized that though this particular group seems to be doing okay, they don’t know what the status is of the species overall, and efforts need to be taken to ensure their survival.