Wildlife & Biodiversity

Vietnam's mouse deer spotted after three decades of 'extinction'

The silver-backed chevrotain is neither a rodent nor a cervid but is, in fact, the world's smallest hoofed animal

Last Updated: Wednesday 13 November 2019

An extremely rare species of ungulate has been spotted in south Vietnam 30 years after it was last seen. The tiny creature that looks like a cross between a deer and a mouse, is also known as Vietnam's mouse deer.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the silver-backed chevrotain was last seen in 1990. Despite being called the mouse deer, this is neither a rodent nor a cervid. It is in fact the world's smallest ungulate or hoofed animal. Similar to the size of a rabbit, its head is russet in colour while the back is covered in grey hair, giving it its name. 

A group of scientists led by Vietnamese biologist An Nguyen set up camera traps in a lowland forest in south Vietnam. They succeeded in capturing photos of the animals. However, the exact number of individuals captured in the photos is not known.  

This study was a part of Global Wildlife Conservation's Search for Lost Species initiative. In their quest of the species, Nguyen and his team extensively travelled through Vietnam and spoke to people living around forests and forest officials who reported having seen animals similar to the silver-backed chevrotain roaming about the tropical forest of the greater Annamites.

The greater annamites is a region in Vietnam and Laos known for high concentration of endemic species.

The species was thought to be extinct mainly as a result of wire snares set by poachers. With its rediscovery, conservationists hope steps will be taken to conserve it. 

Forests in Southeast Asia are under tremendous pressure because of growing human populations and development needs. In May this year, a United Nations body of biodiversity experts The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) had issued a landmark report which warned that up to one million species faced the risk of extinction due to humanity's impact on the planet.  

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