Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Camera-trap evidence that the silver-backed chevrotain Tragulus versicolor remains in the wild in Vietnam


In an age of mass extinctions, confirming the survival of lost species provides rare second chances for biodiversity conservation. The silver-backed chevrotain Tragulus versicolor, a diminutive species of ungulate known only from Vietnam, has been lost to science for almost three decades. Here, we provide evidence that the silver-backed chevrotain still exists and the first photographs of the species in the wild, and urge immediate conservation actions to ensure its survival.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Past localities of silver-backed chevrotains within the Greater Annamites Ecoregion.
Fig. 2: Silver-backed chevrotain specimen from 1990 and photographs of silver-backed chevrotain obtained during this study.

Data availability

Owing to the high demand for wildlife products and the large-scale commercial hunting that is prevalent in Southeast Asia, we have decided with local conservation stakeholders not to release any detailed information on the newly confirmed population of silver-backed chevrotain. However, basic camera-trap record information (camera trap station number, date and time of photographs) is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. Please note that we are unable to share the name of the survey site or exact GPS coordinates for the camera stations at this time.


  1. Baltzer, M. C., Nguyen, T. D. & Shore, R. G. (eds) Towards a Vision for Biodiversity Conservation in the Forests of the Lower Mekong Ecoregion Complex: Summary of the Biological Assessment for the Ecoregion Biodiversity Conservation Program in the Forests of the Lower Mekong Ecoregion Complex (WWF, 2001).

  2. Timmins, R. J., et al. Muntiacus vuquangensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016 e.T44703A22153828 (IUCN, 2016);

  3. Timmins, R. J., Hedges, S. & Robichaud, W. Pseudoryx nghetinhensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016 e.T18597A46364962 (IUCN, 2016);

  4. Tilker, A. et al. Saving the saola from extinction. Science 357, 1248 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Cochard, R., Ngo, D. T., Waeber, P. O. & Kull, C. A. Extent and causes of forest cover changes in Vietnam’s provinces 1993–2013: a review and analysis of official data. Environ. Rev. 25, 199–217 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Harrison, R. D. et al. Impacts of hunting on tropical forests in Southeast Asia. Conserv. Biol. 30, 972–981 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Nguyen, V. S. Wildlife trading in Vietnam: situation, causes, and solutions. J. Environ. Dev. 17, 145–165 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Gray, T. N. et al. Wildlife-snaring crisis in Asian forests. Science 355, 255–256 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Gray, T. N. et al. The wildlife snaring crisis: an insidious and pervasive threat to biodiversity in Southeast Asia. Biodivers. Conserv. 27, 1031–1037 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Redford, K. H. The empty forest. BioScience 42, 412–422 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Timmins, R. J., Duckworth, J. W. & Meijaard, E. Tragulus versicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015 e.T136360A61978789 (IUCN, 2015);

  12. Thomas, O. Three new Asiatic mammals. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 5, 534–536 (1910).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Kuznetsov, G. V. & Borissenko, A. V. A new record of Tragulus versicolor (Artiodactyla, Tragulidae) from Vietnam, and its sympatric occurrence with T. kanchil. Russ. J. Theriol. 3, 9–13 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Meijaard, E. & Groves, C. P. A taxonomic revision of the Tragulus mouse-deer (Artiodactyla). Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 140, 63–102 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Meijaard, E. & Groves, C. P. Recent study identifies the possible existence of a forgotten species. Oryx 38, 132–133 (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Meijaard, E., Borissenko, A. V. & Kuznetsov, G. V. Rediscovery of Tragulus versicolor, the silver-backed chevrotain. Oryx 38, 254–255 (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Tilker, A. et al. Nesolagus timminsi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019 e.T41209A45181925 (IUCN, 2019).

  18. Meijaard, E. & Nijman, V. Secrecy considerations for conserving Lazarus species. Biol. Conserv. 175, 21–24 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Ganas, J. & Lindsell, J. A. Photographic evidence of Jentink’s duiker in the Gola Forest Reserves, Sierra Leone. Afr. J. Ecol. 48, 566–568 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Sollmann, R., Linkie, M., Haidir, I. A. & Macdonald, D. W. Bringing clarity to the clouded leopard Neofelis diardi: first density estimates from Sumatra. Oryx 48, 536–539 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Tilker, A. et al. A little-known endemic caught in the South-east Asian extinction crisis: the Annamite striped rabbit Nesolagus timminsi. Oryx (2018).

  22. Whitfield, J. A saola poses for the camera. Nature 396, 410 (1998).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Polet, G., Tran, V. M., Nguyen, X. D., Bui, H. M. & Baltzer, M. The Javan rhinos, Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus, of Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam: current status and management implications. Pachyderm 27, 34–47 (1999).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Schmid, M. Végétation du Viet-Nam: le massif sud-Annamitique et les régions limitrophes. Mémoires ORSTOM 74, 1–243 (1974).

    Google Scholar 

  25. Rundel, P. W. Forest Habitats and Flora in Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam (WWF, 1999).

  26. Averyanov, L. V., Phan, K. L., Nguyen, T. H. & Harder, D. K. Phytogeographic review of Vietnam and adjacent areas of eastern Indochina. Komarovia 3, 1–83 (2003).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gadgil, M., Berkes, F. & Folke, C. Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio 22, 151–156 (1993).

  28. Newton, P., Nguyen, V. T., Roberton, S. & Bell, D. Pangolins in peril: using local hunters’ knowledge to conserve elusive species in Vietnam. Endanger. Species Res. 6, 41–53 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Zeller, K. A., Nijhawan, S., Salom-Pérez, R., Potosme, S. H. & Hines, J. E. Integrating occupancy modeling and interview data for corridor identification: a case study for jaguars in Nicaragua. Biol. Conserv. 144, 892–901 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Turvey, S. T. et al. Interview‐based sighting histories can inform regional conservation prioritization for highly threatened cryptic species. J. Appl. Ecol. 52, 422–433 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Timmins, R. J., Evans, T. D., Khounboline, K. & Sisomphone, C. Status and conservation of the giant muntjac Megamuntiacus vuquangensis, and notes on other muntjac species in Laos. Oryx 32, 59–67 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Abrams, J. F. et al. Studying Terrestrial Mammals in Tropical Rainforests. A User Guide for Camera-Trapping and Environmental DNA (Leibniz-IZW, 2018).

  33. Niedballa, J., Sollmann, R., Courtiol, A. & Wilting, A. camtrapR: an R package for efficient camera trap data management. Methods Ecol. Evol. 7, 1457–1462 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Jarvis, A., Reuter, H. I., Nelson, A. & Guevara, E. Hole-filled SRTM data V4 (International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, 2008);

Download references


We thank the team members, including T. A. D. Vo, T. Q. Le, N. T. Truong, H. H. P. Tran, V. T. Cao and local people for their support in the field; R. Timmins for discussions in survey planning; and W. Duckworth, R. Ratajszczak and R. Wirth for help with species identification. N. N. Spasskaya, Zoological Museum of Lomonosov, Moscow State University, provided access to the Gia Lai chevrotain specimen (S-151301). Funding for the surveys was provided by Wroclaw Zoo, Aukland Zoo, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (Project 172515989), and the Gerald Singer Deer Research Grant provided by the Sainte Croix Biodiversité. We also thank Southern Institute of Ecology, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Global Wildlife Conservation, and ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo for additional support.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



A.N., T.A.M.N. and D.T.N. conducted the field work. A.N. and A.T. identified and processed camera-trap data. A.N. and A.T. wrote the first draft of the manuscript. A.W., V.B.T., D.M.H., T.A.M.N., D.T.N., T.V.T., E.M., J.H. and B.L. contributed to the manuscript and revised subsequent drafts.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrew Tilker.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nguyen, A., Tran, V.B., Hoang, D.M. et al. Camera-trap evidence that the silver-backed chevrotain Tragulus versicolor remains in the wild in Vietnam. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 1650–1654 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing