In case you haven’t heard, “miniature” is in.
From poodles to purses, all sorts of fun things are being shrunken down to a smaller size these days. And there are some adorably tiny things that already exist in nature, just the way they are. But when it comes to this miniature-sized deer, scientists thought we might never see them again – until now.
For three decades, taxonomists believed that this tiny deer-like species was lost forever. The last recorded sighting of one was in 1990, but after researchers found and even got live footage of one such little guy in the wild forests of Vietnam, it is now the first mammal to be rediscovered in the Search For Lost Species, which is the Global Wildlife Conservation’s (GWC) top 25 most wanted list.
Most people would agree that deers are some of the cutest animals on the planet – and they don’t even yet know how cute they can be. These tiny deers, called a ‘silver-backed chevrotain’ or ‘Vietnamese mouse deer, are about the size of a rabbit and typically weigh less than 11 lbs (5 kgs). They’re the world’s smallest small ungulates (hoofed mammals), who appear to walk on the tips of their hooves. They are shy and solitary, and have two tiny fangs.
“We had no idea what to expect, so I was surprised and overjoyed when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a mouse deer with silver flanks,” said An Nguyen, associate conservation scientist for GWC and expedition team leader. “For so long, this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination. 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.”
Other than its glaring cuteness, one reason this species was deemed so important for scientists to find is because we so far know almost nothing about their general ecology or conservation status; and understanding more is a step forward in protecting the ecology of the habitats they live in.
“The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain provides a big hope for the conservation of biodiversity, especially threatened species, in Vietnam,” said Hoang Minh Duc, head of the Southern Institute of Ecology’s Department of Zoology. “This also encourages us, together with relevant and international partners, to devote time and effort to further investigate and conserve Vietnam’s biodiversity heritage.”