Vampire Bambi? Rare Fanged Deer Confirmed in Afghanistan After 60 Years

More than 60 years after its last confirmed sighting, a strange deer with vampire-like fangs still persists in the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan according to a research team led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which confirmed the species presence during recent surveys. Julie Larsen Maher / Courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society

Cue the vampire jokes: A deer with fang-like canine teeth has been spotted in northeastern Afghanistan, more than 60 years after the species was last confirmed to live there. The Kashmir musk deer, Moschus cupreus, was observed by scientists in 1948 but had not officially been recorded there until a team from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Leeds University and Nuristan province, Afghanistan, reported seeing the creatures. Even with concerted effort the team only had five sightings, of at most three individuals, the society said.

Kashmir musk deer live in the mountains of extreme northern India and Pakistan and northern Afghanistan, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. So little is known about them that the list doesn’t even hazard a guess at how many still exist. Key problems for the species, which the Red List classifies as endangered: Musk in the males’ scent glands can be sold for $45,000 per kilogram (local hunters get $200-$250 per gland) on international markets, and the forests that the deer depend on are threatened by logging. And the fangs? The males use those in jousting during the rutting season.


— Gil Aegerter