Hello, is it me you’re looking for? Rare mouse-deer thought to be extinct found in Vietnamese forest

The ‘extinct’ animal has been rediscovered by scientists from the Global Wildlife Conservation and partners with the support of Wrocław Zoo. Wrocław Zoo

After eluding researchers for decades, a shy woodland creature called a mouse-deer or Chevrotain has been captured on hidden camera in the forests of Vietnam.

The Chevrotain is a mysterious creature first discovered in southern Vietnam in 1910, which is when data on the animal was collected.

The silver-backed Chevrotain looks like a fawn. The “mouse” part comes from its small size: it grows to up to 40 cm in length and does not weigh more than 1.7 kg – roughly half the weight of a human baby.Wrocław Zoo

For the next 80 years, though, scientists were unable to verify the data. It was not until 1990 that a fifth one was collected, this time in central Vietnam.

The animal is on Global Wildlife Conservation’s list of 25 most-wanted lost species, alongside others such as the Pondicherry shark and the Himalayan quail.

Now the animal has been rediscovered by scientists from the Global Wildlife Conservation and partners with the support of Wrocław Zoo.

The scientific team set up camera-traps, remotely-activated cameras equipped with a motion sensor or an infrared sensor, in the forests of southern Vietnam, which photographed the species in action.

When the research team was set up in 2018, it was short of funds. The Zoo’s director came forward and contributed 2500 dollars to the project.

With this support, the team set up camera-traps, remotely-activated cameras equipped with a motion sensor or an infrared sensor, in the forests of southern Vietnam, which photographed the species in action.

The silver-backed Chevrotain is on a list of 25 most-wanted lost species.Wrocław Zoo

Wrocław Zoo’s director Radosław Ratajczak said: “In January, I received photos asking if I could identify the species from photographs.

“I looked and couldn't believe my eyes. I knew right away that it was a Tragulus, but none of the species I knew from autopsies.

“When I enlarged the photos and began to look at them, I realised that I was looking at the smallest hoofed mammal in the world that was considered extinct.”

Wrocław Zoo director Radosław Ratajczak said: “When I enlarged the photos and began to look at them, I realised that I was looking at the smallest hoofed mammal in the world that was considered extinct.”Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

Researchers and conservationists in Vietnam and abroad have welcomed the news with.

“In an age of mass extinctions, confirming the survival of lost species provides rare second chances for biodiversity conservation,” writes the expedition team leader An Nguyen and others in an article outlining the discovery published in the journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution published on 11 November, which provides camera-trap evidence that the animal still exists and the first photographs of it in the wild.

The Chevrotain was first discovered in southern Vietnam in 1910, but then disappeared for 80 years.Public domain

The finding makes the chevrotain the first mammal on Global Wildlife Conservation’s list to be rediscovered.

The silver-backed Chevrotain looks like a fawn. The “mouse” part comes from its small size: it grows to up to 40 cm in length and does not weigh more than 1.7 kg – roughly half the weight of a human baby.

Like larger deer, llamas, giraffes and various large farm animals, it is an even-toed ungulate, a hoofed mammal.

The finding makes the Chevrotain the first mammal on Global Wildlife Conservation’s list to be rediscovered.Wrocław Zoo

Given large-scale commercial hunting in Southeast Asia, the team decided not to include detailed information on where the species was filmed in the wild.

The team now wants to find out more about the animal: how large the population is, its wider distribution and the threats to its survival. With the help of a conservation action plan, they will aim to strengthen the protection of the species.