“For more than 20 years, the Ili PIka, a type of tiny, mountain-dwelling mammal with a teddy bear face, had eluded scientists in the Tianshan Mountains of northwestern China.
People have seen the furry critter only a handful of times since it was discovered by accident in 1983. In fact, people have spotted only 29 live individuals, and little is known about the animal’s ecology and behavior.
Like other species of Pika found in North America, the Ili Pika lives at high elevations—between 9,200 and 13,450 feet (2,800 to 4,100 meters)—and subsists mainly on grasses, herbs, and other mountain plants.
Like other high-dwelling creatures, the pika is sensitive to changes in its environment. A 1990s estimate put its population at about 2,000 individuals, and it’s believed to be decreasing in number, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Grazing pressure from livestock and air pollution have likely contributed to the decline in the Ili pika, which IUCN lists as vulnerable to extinction. China considers the species endangered. (Related: “Tiny, Rabbit-Like Animals Eating ‘Paper’ to Survive Global Warming.”)
Even so, there are no concerted efforts under way to help the Ili pika. Li said he hopes to change that, and use the rediscovery of the animal to create conservation areas for the species.” – National Geographic