The Ili Pika is one of the most adorable creatures on the entire planet. Sadly enough, in a couple of years, this species might not exist at all.
The Ili Pika, also known as Ochotona iliensis, was first found in 1983 and is endemic to a remote region in Northern China. However, these dreamy teddy bear look-alikes have a population of less than a thousand in the whole world.
Ever since Li Weidong discovered this cute species, its numbers started dropping dramatically, getting to a decline of 70% in the last 35 years.
In 2008, the Ili Pika was put on the red list of endangered species, yet, no conservation group or association to protect them has emerged.
The fluffy relative of the rabbit is generally under 8 inches long, lives in the high ground of the mountains, and feeds on grass. It is believed that global warming is the main reason for their disappearance. As rising temperatures made snow levels become higher and higher, the ili pikas moved up more in the mountains, going from an altitude of 11,000 feet to 13,450 feet – an undoubtedly radical difference, since the ili pikas’ population went from 2,900 to third that number.
Li admits that he would feel extremely guilty if the ili pikas become extinct in front of his eyes.
Li has been taking this matter into his own hands. In 2014, he gathered a group of 20 volunteers to track these ‘magic rabbits’ and do some population estimation. After spending over $25,000 of his own money to fund the research for this rare mammal, he started receiving occasional grants from the World Wide Fund for Nature. Nevertheless, Li reveals that what upsets him the most isn’t the lack of funding, but the lack of recognition of this species’ grave danger.
Li has been persuading and urging for the creation of a nature reserve for the ili pika; however, there are only deaf ears.