No One Had Seen These Tiny Deer for 20 Years. Then One Day, They Came Back.

It’s called a mutjac and lives in Vietnam.

A large antlered muntjac.Leibniz IZW, WWF Vietnam, USAID Song Thanh Nature Rerserve

This story was originally published by Atlas Obscura and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. 

In 1994, scientists researching in Vietnam first documented the elusive large-antlered muntjac in the semi-evergreen Vu Quang Nature Reserve, in the province of Ha Tinh. The creature’s shoulder height measures roughly 26 inches, it weighs roughly 66 to 110 pounds, and lives around the Annamite Mountains that border Laos.

For years, the tiny deer has been drastically absent because of illegal wire-snare hunting. So, when the researchers from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and WWF-Vietnam caught a photo of a male and female muntjac, there was much to celebrate.

To honor the occasion, they plan to enhance camera-trapping efforts. The last record of the muntjacs wandering the Annamite region was in the 2000, which worried many scientists and conservationists. The fear was that the critically endangered mammal was close to extinction, but the rediscovery is small win for those who want to witness the deer’s stride in Vu Quang Nature Reserve.

“Finding these rare and beautiful species gives new hope for Vietnam’s precious biodiversity treasures,” said researcher Nguyen Van Thanh in a statement.