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World Silver-backed chevrotain, or mouse-deer, thought extinct, caught on camera in Vietnam

18:55  11 november  2019
18:55  11 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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A tiny species of ungulate that resembles a miniature deer has been caught on camera for the first time, more than 30 years after the last dead specimen was recorded.

The silver - backed chevrotain is commonly known as the Vietnamese mouse de The chevrotain is neither mice nor deer despite its nickname. They were thought to be extinct until now. The animals are the world’s smallest hoofed mammal and are known to be shy and solitary.

The last silver-backed chevrotain was seen in the 1990s.© ABC News The last silver-backed chevrotain was seen in the 1990s.

With so many stories of animals going extinct these days it's rare to get some good news.

But researchers working in lowland forest near Nha Trang in south-east Vietnam have captured the first-ever photos of a silver-backed chevrotain or "mouse-deer", which conservationists feared was extinct.

The small deer-like species of ungulate was last seen in the early 1990s, and was feared to have been wiped out by extensive land clearing and poaching across its known habitat, researchers wrote in a paper published in Nature today.

While its small and fragmented population means the animal is still highly vulnerable to extinction, it's a "heartwarming" find according to James Watson, director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland.

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The silver - backed chevrotain , also known as the Vietnamese mouse - deer , is about the size of a large rabbit, with a silver sheen on its rump. Camera traps in Vietnam 's wet tropical forests have never recorded a sighting, so it may be that these animals prefer a dry, thorn scrub forest habitat.

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"[The silver-backed chevrotain] was mythical. People talked for years about whether it existed or not," said Professor Watson, who wasn't involved in the study.

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An elusive fanged mouse - deer thought to be "lost to science" for nearly 30 years has been caught on camera in Vietnam , according to an article published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. The rediscovery of the silver - backed chevrotain , also called the Vietnamese

Silver - backed chevrotain captured on a camera trap video in a forest in southern Vietnam . Mouse deer thought extinct found alive. The most recent sightings were by scientists working with the They took 275 photos of the species, then set up another 29 cameras in the same area, this time recording

"This shows there are still things hanging on and they're not found in these really large protected areas, they're found in these small patches of habitat."

Prior to these images, the animal was only known from a handful of dead specimens and local reports.

The tiny silver-backed chevrotain, which superficially resembles a small deer, gets its name from the grey and white flecked fur on the back half of its body.

Because it is so rare, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists its conservation status as "data deficient".

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The researchers say there may be other populations in Vietnam.© ABC News The researchers say there may be other populations in Vietnam.

The research team suspected the animal may still occur in the forests near Nha Trang, after interviewing locals in the region who reported seeing chevrotains with grey backs.

So they set up camera traps — cameras triggered by movement — at three sites in early 2018.

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The silver - backed chevrotain , also called a mouse - deer , was captured on camera traps. The animal looks like a deer, but is the size of a cat. "There was no reason to think that it was extinct , but at the same time, we didn't know that it wasn't extinct ," says An Nguyen, a conservation scientist at Global

Two silver - backed chevrotains were caught on camera . (Image credit: A silver - backed chevrotain was caught on a camera trap as it wandered about the forest. ) Nguyen and his team traveled around Vietnam and spoke with villagers and forest rangers who reported having seen

When they retrieved their cameras in April of that year, all three contained images of the animals.

They then increased the number of camera traps to 29, and recorded animals on 15 of 29 cameras between April and July.

Their findings suggest that, at least within this small region, the species may be locally abundant.

However, they stress the need for more research to investigate whether there are other populations across Vietnam.

"We also recommend assessing the major threats in areas in which the species has been confirmed, as a first step in developing mitigation strategies with local stakeholders," they wrote.

Good news stories like this one are really important for conservationists, who are burning out on the seemingly relentless decline of the natural world, according to Professor Watson.

"Unfortunately the news is so often bad because the state of the planet is terrible," said Professor Watson, who is also the director of science and research at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"Most conservationists I think are manically depressed. I really do, because we see loss every day.

"So anything that makes you go, 'wow, that's unexpected but lovely', it warms the heart."

He thinks that the ecology of the silver-backed chevrotain means that it has a good chance of recovery, if the key threats are removed.

"They're rapid breeders, so the good news is that if you can get habitat loss and hunting under control, it's got a good chance at bouncing back."

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