There is a rare creature, native to the Tianshan mountain range in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, who is so adorable, one look from it will melt your heart. The incredibly popular Pokemon character Pikachu was actually based of the this creature. It is called the Ili Pika, also known as the ‘magic rabbit’s, and it is sadly a very rare and endangered species. It is so rare that most people don’t even know of its existence. It is believed that there are less than 1000 of the little creatures in around today but even these small numbers are continually falling.
The magic rabbit was first discovered in 1983. Then, as abruptly as it was found, it disappeared. Experts were afraid that the Ili Pika may have vanished from the Earth completely since they were nowhere to be found. For two long decades not one was spotted.
From the moment when the scientists discovered Ili Pika, the tiny creature has had a reputation for its elusive nature. So great is their ability to hide that since the first spotting, only 29 live individuals have been seen making it nearly impossible to truly understand details about its behavior and ecology.
Weidong Li, a scientist out of the Xinjiang Institute for Ecology and Geography was the lucky one who found the first magic rabbit. The National Geographic explains Li’s discovery of the species:
“In 1983, the Chinese government sent Li to the mountainous Xinjiang Province to study natural resources and infectious diseases. As Li explored a valley by Jilimalale Mountain, he saw a small, gray head sticking out from a crack in the rock. As he edged closer, Li got a look at its whole body. The animal was about 8 inches (20 centimeters) long, with large ears and several small brown spots in its gray fur. Li wasn’t familiar with the species, nor were nearby herdsmen. Li caught a specimen and sent it to a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who said he believed the pika was a new species.”
Ironically, he was also the one who rediscover the critter again in 2014. Throughout the years of the animals disappearance, Li had refused to give up hope on spotting a pika in the wild. He would continuously gathered a group of volunteers to go searching. Naturalist Tatsuya Shin who worked directly with the discoverers explained:
“They found it hiding behind a rock, and they realized they had found the Pika. They were very excited.”
Li, quick handed, grabbed his camera and snapped away managing to capture a few stunning photos which would quickly gain attention around the globe. This is but the beginning of the Pika’s battle – their road to rebound from extinction. The likely contributing factors to the declining numbers of Pika are grazing pressure from livestock and air pollution. So now, the magic rabbit needs all the help that it can get!
The IUCN lists as vulnerable to extinction but even so there are no concerted efforts under way to help the Ili Pika but Li is determined to change that. He hopes the rediscovery of the animal will create conservation areas for the species. Li is going to do everything in his power to make it so the creature does not vanish from the planet. He admits, “I discovered the species, and I watched as it became endangered. If it becomes extinct in front of me, I’ll feel so guilty.”
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