Scientists rediscover missing mammal, the silver-backed chevrotain

The story of the silver-backed chevrotain,
at least my involvement in it, really started in 2017. That’s when the Global
Wildlife Conservation released a list of the 25 most wanted lost species. They had
compiled a list of 1,200 lost species and lost species are animals plants, insects,
things that that we know use to be out there and that are now missing — haven’t
been seen for decades. It’s quite likely many of them are extinct but the
hope is that some of them are still around and so Global Wildlife
Conservation, which is a conservation NGO created this list of 25 [animals]
they wanted to try and find that were sort of interesting for different
reasons and one of those animals was the silver-backed chevrotain and I as a
reporter have always been very interested in animals that are unique
and strange and different and so this list really captured my imagination.
Chevrotains, which are colloquially called mouse deer are really cool animals. They
are not deer and they are not mice they are rabbits-sized, hoofed mammals —
ungulates — and they are some of the oldest ungulates in the world,
they diverged about 50 million years ago so they’re a really interesting family and I have seen some in the wild, and when you see them in the wild
they’re just so small and they do look like tiny deers you sort of, you can
understand that impression but they’re very, they’re quite different
from deer they have four hooves, they have fangs that they have, and they’re really
just cool animals and there’s some research and now some speculation that
these are really the ancestors of the animals that would have eventually
turned into whales and hippos and things like that. Scientific observations of
chevrotains, especially of the species in Africa but also a number species in Asia,
of them using water and going underwater and staying submerged for quite a long time.
So it’s a really cool animal. The other reason why this matters is that this is
the only chevrotain that is only found in Vietnam. It’s totally endemic to
Vietnam, it’s only found in this one area that so far that we know of a Vietnam
scientists are not looking in some other places. And the reason that that’s
exciting is because Vietnam is going through a wildlife crisis right now, with
poaching, snaring, deforestation like many places in Southeast Asia, wildlife is
being wiped out and so the fact that this animal is still there shows
the resilience and it gives us a hope and a chance to preserve this animal as
well as other animals in that region. In 2018 Global Wildlife Conservation and I
had been speaking for a little bit and they had told me that they were going to
go on an expedition to try and find the silver-backed chevrotain and that was
going to involve really setting up camera traps in an area that had
historically been one of the areas that this species have been found and they
were somewhat hopeful that maybe they had it shot up I’ve seen it again. In May
of this year I found out from them them that the expedition had succeeded, but of
course at this time I could not tell anyone that this, you know, this animal
had been rediscovered. So in conversation with them, I was already
going to be out in Southeast Asia anyway, and so I said ‘hey can I maybe pop over
there and go to where this animal had been found,’ and my interest was really to
go and see the habitat and to kind of get a sense of the story. I hope that
I might be able to actually see the animal because the scientists had
captured on camera trap got lots of photos of it on camera trap but none of
the scientists had actually seen it in the flesh, so I thought well this would
be kind of a fun adventure, I’ll go see if I can see it, talk to local people
to get a sense of what the habitat looks like and how the protected area is. We
had to find a local wildlife guide that we could trust with this secret and be
able to help me find this animal and kind of put me in touch with local
people because I speak no Vietnamese, I have never been to Vietnam, and then it
was just a matter of getting there and then having this adventure of two nights
going out to look for this animal and I’m not gonna tell you in this interview
what happens because it’s more fun if you just
read the article and you can find out for yourself what happens in relation to
trying to discover this lost species that has been found.

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