Sensation! After 30 years it was found again - the silver-backed chevrotain.
The rediscovery of a species considered extinct has electrified the world of science, especially biologists around the world. It is a chance to save and study this species. It also brings hope that more "lost species" of animals and plants will be found, and there are already about 1,200 of those. Poles and Wrocław played a role in this success. The project is supported by the Wrocław zoo and its head, Radosław Ratajszczak.
In 2018, a research team was brought together under the auspices of Global Wildlife Conservation, whose task was to find the lost species. However, there were not enough funds to start research. Then the president of the Wroclaw zoo reacted quickly - USD 2,500 was transferred to the project's account. The project took off and brought results surprisingly quickly.
Camera traps snapped 275 photos in the forests of southern Vietnam at the turn of 2018 and 2019. The best locations to set up the cameras were established based on several months of work. The team conducted field research, interviewing the residents of the area where the silver-backed chevrotain was last seen. To place the photo traps, the team had to consider the topography of the terrain as well as the few facts known about the species. When An Nguyen, the head of the research team, saw the pictures, she could barely believe it happened so quickly. However, as a scientist, she remained cool and sent the photos to Vietnamese fauna experts around the world, asking for verification. One of the addressees was the president of the Wroclaw zoo - Radosław Ratajszczak.
Confirmation that the animal in the photographs is in fact the long lost Tragulus versicolor (the silver-backed chevrotain) did not complete the identification process. The most difficult phase was still ahead of the researchers-only obtaining physical evidence would give 100% guarantee. They had to collect specimen from the spots where the cameras were set up, and also run comparative DNA tests against samples from 30 years ago. It took over six months, but the studies have confirmed that the photographed animals are indeed silver-backed chevrotains - a species considered extinct.
- We got a gift from fate that we cannot waste. A miracle actually. We have lost so many species of animals that we cannot afford to let go and we must keep going. About 1,200 species of plants and animals are considered lost. Among them is saola - a species discovered in 1992. However, no biologist has seen this animal in the wild since then. We have pictures from photo traps and that's it. The search is ongoing and our zoo is taking part in it. Appetite comes with eating, so I'm optimistic about the future. - adds Ratajszczak and announces that Wrocław will also take part in creating a reserve protection program in the area where the mouse-deer was found, and will support it financially.
On the Zoo Wrocław website we quote the words of a well-known biologist and conservationist, Sir Peter Scott: "We shan't save all we should like to - but we shall save a great deal more than if we had never tried." This motto guides the operations of the zoo. The mission of saving animals is understood here literally and on many levels. Conservation breeding of over 300 species of animals is carried out at the zoo, including such wonders as the milu, okapi, manatees, bear cuscuses and black crested gibbons. Thanks to the 'SAVING WILDLIFE' tickets that the visitors choose to buy, the zoo raised 280,000 PLN last year. The funds have been allocated to help animals such as pangolins, Komodo dragons, okapi, Laotian rock rats and Polish pond turtles in their natural environment. Zoo Wocław also supports projects that protect endangered species that live at the zoo, for example African penguins and clouded leopards. Together with the Dodo foundation, Zoo Wrocław hosts a yearly charity run called the WILD RUN and cycles of open meetings called "ZOO and DODO RESCUE". Special guest speakers invited to those meetings are involved in projects that protect animals in the place of their natural occurrence, e.g. in Laos or Sumatra.
- It seems to us that living in Poland, we have no influence on what is happening at the other end of the globe. This is not true. Every day we make shopping decisions that have consequences. Everything we buy was produced somewhere. Specific raw materials were used for that purpose. It was packaged and transported to the store. Each of these steps affects the environment. That is why it is so important for us to talk about animal protection and persuade people to join us and support our activities. It is not only about the future of our grandchildren, but about ourselves. - emphasizes Rosław Ratajszczak.
You can support the zoo's activities by visiting the zoo or by donating to the DODO foundation.