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Afghan Fanged Deer: First Sighting of Endangered Species Since 1948, Is This Good News?

Travelers Today       By    Althea Serad

Updated: Nov 01, 2014 12:51 PM EDT

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Sightings of the Afghan fanged deer were reported after more than 60 years that the fanged creature had not been seen in Afghanistan. The Afghan fanged deer sightings were reported by researchers of the Wildlife Conservation Society  in New York in the Oct. 22 edition of the journal "Oryx."

The study was led by Stephane Ostrowski, and according to Discovery News, Ostrowski's research team found the Afghan fanged deer again in the northeast part of the country, the first scientific sighting since a Danish survey team made one in 1948. The recent survey reportedly confirmed five sightings.

The sightings were made after the researchers conducted transect surveys in Nuristan Province in northeast Afghanistan. The five encounters of the Afghan fanged deer included one of a lone male in the same area three times, one female with a child and one lone female, which reportedly could have been the same deer who had a young with her.

According to the researchers, the Afghan fanged deer is difficult to find, therefore it was practically impossible to photograph them.

The Afghan fanged deer or the Kashmir musk deer is in scientific terms called the Moschus Cupreus. The species was last seen in Afghanistan in 1948.

The recent study appearances occurred in the alpine meadows and steep, rocky protrusions of northeast Afghanistan. The area reportedly had dense bushes of juniper and rhododendron.

There are seven similar species to the Musk deer around Asia. Their fangs may seem to be vampire-like in appearance, but the male Afghan fanged deer use these protrusions during the mating season to defend themselves against other males, and to impress females as well, according to the Washington Post.

The size of the Afghan fanged deer is barely more than 2 feet tall at the shoulder, a tad stocky for a deer.

"Musk deer are one of Afghanistan's living treasures," according to Peter Zahler, co-author of the WCS study and their deputy director for Asia programs.

"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," he added.

The recent sighting of the Afghan fanged deer is a definite good news as the species was already listed on the IUCN Red List as endangered. The reason behind the decline in their population is habitat loss and poaching.

They are hunted because their scent glands are more valuable than gold on the black market. Deer musk - the brown, waxy secretions near the rear end of a male of the species - has been used for many generations in traditional medicines, incense, cosmetics and perfumes.

According to reports, the musk of the Afghan fanged deer can be worth more than $20,000 a pound.

Although it is possible to extract the musk while the Afghan fanged deer is alive, "musk-gatherers" - as poachers of the species are called - kill these animals in order to remove the entire sac instead of just taking the musk itself. According to IFL Science, a single pod contains only about 25 grams of the substance.

The study of the Afghan fanged deer was published in "Oryx," the international journal of conservation.

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