Water Chevrotain, Hyemoschus aquaticus

The water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus), or fanged deer, is one of the smallest ruminants native to tropical Africa. It is comparable to a deer, although smaller than a dog, and is the largest of all chevrotain species. Its range includes the rainforests of central Africa and the coastal areas of West Africa. It is threatened due to habitat loss by human actions and bushmeat hunting. The water chevrotain has been given a conservation status of “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

The water chevrotain is stout and round, with smaller legs, hooves, and head compared to the rest of the body. Adults can reach an average body length of 2.6 feet and weigh up to 24.6 pounds. Its coat is burnished red, with white spots and stripes. As its name implies, it is an adept swimmer, with nostrils that can shut tight to prevent water from entering the lungs. It rarely leaves the proximity of a water source, and will hastily retreat into the water if it feels threatened. Males bear sharp tusks, giving it the name fanged deer.

Water chevrotains are nocturnal and territorial. Males will hold territories that overlap those of females, but despite this, males are rarely aggressive with other males. A female will mate with one male within her territory, producing one offspring approximately four months later. The diet of the water chevrotain consists mainly of fruits and other plant materials. It is known as a true ruminant because of this diet.

Image Caption: axidermied water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus), also known as the fanged deer at the Natural History Museum in London. Credit: Emőke Dénes/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 2.5)