Long prized by Afghan hunters for their scent glands, the Kashmir musk deer (Moschus cupreus) was feared extinct and all living deer were considered cryptids until 1948. (Photo right by Nikolay Usik of a captive male Kashmir musk deer.)
The Kashmir musk deer is very unique in appearance. Unlike the gentle grazers of the Americas, the males of this species have fangs protruding from their mouths. Scientists believe they use them fighting other bucks during mating season.
These deer measure about two to three feet tall, weigh between 15 and 37 pounds, and are extremely hard to spot in the wild because they don’t group together in herds but seem to remain mostly solitary.
This recent sighting was reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) team led by Dr. Stephane Ostrowski. This team reported five sightings in Eastern Afghanistan in “rugged, foliage rich terrain.”
Peter Zahler who is the Deputy Director of Asia Programs for the WCS, said, “[the musk deer is] one of Afghanistan’s living treasures. [They hope] that conditions will stabilize soon to allow WCS and local partners to better evaluate conservation needs of this species.”
According to a site called IFLScience, “By weight, their scent glands are more valuable than gold, fetching as much as $45,000 per kilogram on the international black market. Their musk – the brown, waxy secretions from glands near a male’s rear end – have been used in cosmetics, fragrances, and traditional medicine for centuries.” The sad part is they could extract the scent without killing the animals if they were so inclined.
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