Dwarf goats have the best-known image of a human, with their big feet, long ears and short tails.
But their habitat has long been under threat: Since the last Ice Age, when snowmelt brought more nutrients to the earth, dwarf goats have been hunted and destroyed by humans, according to a new report.
Now, scientists are looking for the goats’ next prey, a species of wild pig with a thick coat of fur that is similar to that of the domestic pig.
And they’re not sure it’s even worth the risk.
“We need to do a better job of monitoring and protecting the environment,” says Paul Giesbrecht, a palaeobiologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and lead author of the new report, published in the journal ZooKeys.
“It’s a tough call.
If we continue to destroy them, we will have an even bigger problem.”
Scientists have found dwarf goats in places like China, Mongolia and the United States, but Giesbelts said the best chance of finding dwarf goats there is in the U.S., where the species is often found in remote regions.
“I think they could be found everywhere,” he says.
Giesbets is particularly excited by the discovery of a dwarf goat from China, named Zhongyu, which he said has the best chances of finding a dwarf in the United Kingdom.
Gysbelts, who has studied the animals for more than 30 years, said he was surprised to learn Zhongyi has a thick and tough coat similar to the one of the giant domestic pigs he studies.
“What we have now is a wild pig of unknown origin that has very thick and thick-coated coat, but this animal’s not known to live in the wild,” he said.
“This is a really promising candidate for a dwarf, but it’s not a wild animal.”
The new report found that the best bet for finding dwarf goat is in northern China, where Giesbfats said the species lives in the Yushu region, where dwarf goats are often found.
The dwarf goats were discovered in 2014 in the Yunnan Province, and Giesbietts says it’s difficult to distinguish them from the domestic pigs they’re named after because of their unusual coat color.
Dwarf goats’ thick coats help them camouflage in the harsh environment of the cold, dark forests where they live, but they also give them the ability to move in herds.
“These are the most beautiful animals on Earth,” Giesbes said.
They’re also very hardy, which is important to the conservationists who study them.
“They are very smart animals, which makes them very adaptable,” he adds.
Gias said that finding dwarf-like animals in Mongolia and other remote regions is a new field of research.
“If you go to Mongolia, it’s a really good place to start,” Givesbets says.
“The environment is extremely harsh, there are a lot of animals that can survive in that climate.”