The rare Kashmir musk deer, spotted for the first time since 1948 (WCS)
The rare Kashmir musk deer, spotted for the first time since 1948.WCS

A rare species of fanged deer has been spotted for the first time in nearly half a century.

The endangered Kashmir musk deer was last spotted in 1948 in Afghanistan by Danish scientists.

However a survey team for the Wildlife Conservation Society has spotted the animal again in Afghanistan's north-eastern forests.

The researchers reported five sightings, seeing a lone male in the same area three times, a female with a child, and a lone female, which may have been the mother without her offspring.

In the society's journal, Oryx, they report that the researchers were unable to photograph the animal.

"Musk deer are one of Afghanistan's living treasures," said co-author Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director of 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."

The species has been decimated by poachers, who want the deer's musk glands, which are used to make perfumes and are more valuable than gold, selling for up to $20,000 a pound on the black market, and the male's fang-like tusks.

The musk deer, and seven similar species that are found in Asia, use their fangs during mating seasons to fight other males and impress females.

The deer are small and sticky, and are on average about two feet tall at the shoulder.