Roosevelt’s barking deer, otherwise known as Roosevelt’s muntjac, is a diminutive deer first found in Laos in 1929. That was the last time a living specimen was seen. Now Vietnamese officials say that the species has been found again in the Xuan Lien Nature Reserve, after almost 84 years of absence.
The deer’s name comes from the family of Theodore Roosevelt, but it was not the father of modern conservation that discovered this species. Roosevelt’s hunting and conservation-minded ideals also passed down to his sons, two of whom led a hunting expedition into Laos in 1929. Kermit and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. first documented the deer for the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, along with noted zoologist Harold Jefferson Coolidge, Jr. Roosevelt’s barking deer belongs to genus Muntiacus, which is believed to be the oldest-known deer—remains dating back to over 30 million years ago have been found. Unlike most modern deer, muntjacs sport tusks that males use to fight one another for dominance.
Now experts say that at least two individuals have been found in the Xuan Lien Nature Reserve. According to a press release by Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the two deer were captured on film by a camera trap inside the reserve. In addition, an investigation involving a local poacher yielded horn and skin samples believed to belong to a barking deer. Vietnamese researchers compared the DNA from the recently recovered samples to the 84-year-old sample kept in the Field Museum. Officials say it is a perfect match.
Muntjacs are called barking deer due to the noise of their call, which sounds similar to a dog bark. Most species of barking deer are very small in size and an adult muntjac can be as small as a domestic cat. Despite being an evolutionary throwback, the deer are surprisingly adaptable. The deer is considered a nuisance in parts of India and muntjacs are on the rise in the United Kingdom, where they have been introduced by humans. In many parts of their range, barking deer are a popular game animal—although the tiny deer would seem like small game when compared to their larger cousins.
You can hear some muntjac deer barking in the video below: