A species going extinct is a sad part of this world, but certainly not a new part. However, when a species makes a reappearance contrary to all the believe knowledge, now that is truly spectacular. In this case, a fanged creature native to Afghanistan has made its first appearance to mankind in more than 60 years.
The Kashmir musk deer, a breed that sport two vampire-like fangs, was last seen in Afghanistan in 1948. Due to its absence from sight, it was thought extinct. However, in a recently published article in the journal Oryx, a research team for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported not one, but five sightings of the Kashmir musk deer.
In the northern area of Afghanistan, a land littered with alpine meadows and rocky outcrops, the team spotted a solitary male at three different times as well as two females and one juvenile deer of indistinguishable gender. Unfortunately for the researchers, the Kashmir musk deer are extremely skittish and they were not able to get a photograph of them.
The telltale fangs of this species are grown by males in place of horns to joust with other males during mating season. Unlike the deer that many people know, the Kashmir musk deer are short and stocky, only growing as tall as two feet at the shoulder. This has likely made them harder to spot in this north Afghanistan area due to tall juniper and rhododendron bushes.
The Kashmir musk deer is just one of seven other and similar species of deer in Asia that are all considered highly endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. The scent glands on these musk deer are major sellers on the black market. Their musk is a key ingredient in perfumes, incense and hosts medicinal applications. It has been coveted by locals for ages and goes for $20,000 per pound.
Peter Zahler, co-author of the study and WCS deputy director of Asia programs states, "Musk deer are one of Afghanistan's living treasures. This rare species, along with better known wildlife such as snow leopards, are the natural heritage of this struggling nation. We hope that conditions will stabilize soon to allow WCS and local partners to better evaluate conservation needs of this species."