Ili Pika: The Incredibly Rare Cute Mammal who likes to play “Hide and Seek”
Ili Pika (Ochotona Iliensis) is the cutest and mysterious endangered animal that you have never heard of. This tiny rabbit-like, mountain-dwelling mammal with teddy bear face was first discovered in 1983 and not documented again in over 20 years until it’s rediscovered in 2014 by a group of scientist in the Tianshan Mountains of northwestern China.
The Chinese government sent the conservationist, Li Weidong to the mountainous Xinjiang Province to study natural resources and infectious diseases in 1983. As Li explored a valley of the mountain, he saw an unfamiliar species, a small about 8 inches (20 centimeters) long and a weight of up to 250 grams, short limbs and round ears, and with several small brown spots in its gray fur sneaking out from a crack in holes between bare rocks oh high cliff faces—this is why ili pika is hard to find—(Arnold, 2015). Then, he sent the pika to the Chinese Academy of Sciences and believed that it was a new species. The name of Ili Pika comes from the area where it is found, the Ili Prefecture on the far west of China’s Xinjiang province after three years of research by Li Weidong and his team. The difference between this Chinese magical bunny and others pikas is that it had three distinct brown stripes on its forehead and around its neck and they are also much quieter so that when a predator is near, they are unable to warn each other.
Ili Pikas are generalized into herbivore. They eat grasses, herbs and other mountain plants, and are usually hunted by foxes, weasels and birds (Glenn, 2006). They are known to stockpile hay between the rocks to eat during the cold winter months. They have been seen drinking from lakes and ponds even though the scientists believe that they get enough water from their food. They also do not hibernate and can withstand the cold weather. When the predator such as hawk or dog is near, they are able to warn each other to defend their territory. They can live up to seven years and are able to reproduce when they get one year old. A pika can carry two or three litters each year but it rarely happens more than one survive.
The more days pass, the more ili pikas are dropping. Their population have been reduced by 70% within 15 years. Current days, less than a thousand ili pikas left and they can even only be found in a few areas of western China. The reasons cause the population declines are not known yet, but it is suspected that the global atmospheric pollution, lack of reproductive, and the areas that have been taken over by the people are also affecting the populations (Lynch, 2015). In this case, Li and his team decided to protect ili pika but do not want any publicity because Li thinks that ili pika would be better leave alone in its natural habitat.