Kabul, Nov 1 :
Strange-looking deer with vampire-like fangs have been spotted more than 60 years after the last confirmed sighting in the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan.
Known as the Kashmir musk deer – one of the seven similar species found in Asia – the last scientific sighting in Afghanistan was believed to have been made by a Danish survey team traversing the region in 1948.
However, recent surveys led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), confirmed the presence of the endangered species in the Nooristan province.
The survey team recorded five sightings, including a solitary male in the same area on three occasions, one female with a young one, and one solitary female, which may have been the same individual without her young one.
All sightings were in steep rocky outcrops interspersed with alpine meadows and scattered dense high bushes of juniper and rhododendron.
According to the team, the musk deer were difficult to spot and could not be photographed.
“Musk deer are one of Afghanistan’s living treasures,” said study co-author Peter Zahler from WCS.
“This rare species, along with better known wildlife such as snow leopards, are the natural heritage of this struggling nation,” Zahler added.
This strange deer species is now endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. Its scent glands are coveted by wildlife traffickers and are considered more valuable by weight than gold, fetching as much as $45,000 (Rs.2,766,600) per kilogram in the black market.
The male’s distinct saber-like tusks are used during the rutting season to compete with other males.
“We hope that conditions will stabilise soon to allow WCS and local partners to better evaluate conservation needs of this species,” concluded the authors of the study published in the journal Oryx.