Discoverer Of The Adorable, Rare Ili Pika Species Fears Imminent Extinction

In times past, the koala bear might have held the unofficial title of cutest and most teddy-bear like of all animals, but the rare, endangered Ili Pika may rise up to steal that trophy. Measuring only 20 centimeters long, the Ili Pika are tiny, furry, and adorable, likened by many to a cuddly teddy bear.

Fox 59 reports that the ultra rare Ili Pika was discovered in China in 1983 by conservationist Li Weidong. He found the Ili Pika living in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, in the Tianshan mountain range. No one had ever seen one of the tiny Ili Pika before 1983. The species was named for Weidong’s hometown, Ili. When he discovered two more in 1985, he was able to have it declared a new species. The #Ili Pika species were estimated at only around 2900 mature mammals.

The rare, endangered Ili Pika in its natural habitat in China's Tianshan mountain range.

The Ili Pika was a main focus of study for the conservationist for ten years before he left the area to take a position with the Xinjiang Academy of Environmental Protection in Urumqi. Without Li, the Ili Pika were left on their own. Another decade passed before Weidong returned to the Tianshan mountain range to check in on his Ili Pika. Sadly, the Ili Pika population seemed to have been drastically reduced in this time. Several trips in search of the teddy bear like mammal yielded no results.

Finally, in 2005 Li teamed up with biologist Andrew Smith, from Arizona State University, to track the Ili Pika by snow tracks and droppings. The new population was estimated at only 2000 mature adults. The Ili Pika were then added to the endangered species list. For the founder of this unique mammal, that was a hard blow to take.

“I discovered the species, and I watched as it became endangered. If it becomes extinct in front of me, I’ll feel so guilty.”

Since 2007, Weidong has spent all his time in the study of the Ili Pika. To date, the population is estimated at only 1000 mature adults. The father of the Ili Pika is concerned for their continued existence. Due to disease, a naturally low rate of reproduction, and possibly global warming, the furry creatures have been forced to move higher on the mountain range.

The rare Ili Pika has been forced to move farther up the mountain to survive.

Weidong and his team are in the process of drawing attention to the Ili Pika plight. They are attempting to add the Ili Pika to the List of Wildlife under Special State Protection, as well as placing a nature reserve to protect the declining numbers of the Ili Pika.

[Images via Irish Mirror/Opozita/The Mirror]