An improbable deer-mouse creature, which will long haunt my nightmares with its freaky appearance, was thought to be lost to science for 30 years —until now. Frankly, some mysteries are better left undisturbed.
A team of researchers with the Global Wildlife Conservation captured footage of the animal, long thought to have been “lost,” if not extinct, on motion-activated camera “traps” they set up in its former habitat, a coastal forest of southern Vietnam. Its name is the silver-backed chevrotain, which sounds like a kind of car, but make no mistake: It’s the world’s tiniest hoofed mammal, a horrifying creature, with the doe-eyed face and spindly legs of Bambi and the sloped, foreshortened body of a rat, all bundled into a skeletal structure approximately the size of a rabbit’s. It 100 percent looks Photoshopped, and if I ever had the misfortune to encounter one, I would immediately drop my iced coffee and run screaming in the opposite direction.
I realize plenty of readers won’t agree with this sentiment because I already know that several of my co-workers find the deer-mouse (or mouse-deer, neither is technically correct) to be cute and not a genre-defying ungulate designed by nature specifically to torture my mind. That’s fair, too.
An Nguyen, a scientist and the team’s leader, told the Guardian on Monday, “We had no idea what to expect, so I was surprised and overjoyed when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a chevrotain with silver flanks.” He continued, “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.”
The chevrotain is thought to be preyed upon by leopards, pythons, and wild dogs, but according to the Guardian, it was human hunters who nearly wiped out the species for good and could continue to threaten the population. It’s lovely that the cursed deer-mouse is thriving. I want that for her, just as I want so badly to forget what I have seen.