The mouse deer, thought extinct, reappears in Vietnam after 30 years

Since its discovery in 1910 only five individuals have been found, the last in 1990.

Mouse deer rediscovered in Vietnam after 30 years picture
Mouse deer rediscovered in Vietnam after 30 years 

These are the smallest ungulates in the world, weighing less than 4.5 kilos.

The Vietnamese mouse deer, a rabbit-sized species lost to science 30 years ago and thought extinct, has been rediscovered by scientists led by Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).

The rediscovery in southern Vietnam of Tragulus versicolor, led by Global Wildlife Conservation, has been published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

"We had no idea what to expect, so I was surprised and very happy when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a mouse deer," says An Nguyen, GWC associate conservation scientist and expedition team leader.

"For a long time, this species has apparently only existed as part of our imagination. Finding out that, in fact, it's still out there is the first step in ensuring that we don't lose it again, and now we're moving quickly to figure out the best way to protect it," he adds.

Mouse deer rediscovered in Vietnam after 30 years picture 2
Mouse deer rediscovered after 30 years 

Discovered in 1910

The mouse deer was first discovered in 1910, Scientists know almost nothing about the general ecology or conservation status of the species, making it one of the top mammal conservation priorities in the Greater Annamites, one of the wilderness areas that GWC focuses on.

After several interviews with local villagers and government rangers who reported seeing a mouse deer, and distinguishing it from a smaller species, the field team placed three camera traps for five months in an area of southern Vietnam where local people indicated they had seen the animal.

This resulted in 275 photos of the species. The team then installed 29 other cameras in the same area, this time recording 1,881 photographs of the tiny deer for five months.

The world's smallest ungulates

There are ten known species of the tragulidae family in the world, mainly from Asia. They are the smallest ungulates in the world (hoofed mammals). They are shy and lonely, seem to walk on the tips of their hoofs and have two small tusks. They generally weigh less than 4.5 kilos.

In Southeast Asia, forest dwellers are victims of a devastating hunting technique: the use of cheap, homemade wire traps. The level of indiscriminate hunting in the region has led to the "empty forest syndrome" widespread throughout Vietnam, bringing numerous species to the brink of extinction.