The ILI PIKA, also called , “adorable magic rabbit” is a species of mammal endemic to the Tian Shan Mountains of north-west Chinese province of Xinjiang.
It inhabits areas on high cliff faces. This species constructs “hay piles” and is a generalized herbivore. Almost nothing is known about the ecology or behaviour of the species. It exhibits low population densities. Only 1 or 2 litters are produced each year, but the litter size for this species is unknown.
Populations have declined in the regions of Jipuk, Tianger Apex and Telimani Daban. Only one examined site —- the Bayingou region showed signs of previously observed abundance. An estimated 2,000 mature individuals existed in the early 1990s. The exact causes for recently observed population declines are not known, but it is speculated that an increase in grazing pressure and global atmospheric pollution resulting in climate change are negatively impacting their population. There are no known conservation measures in place.
The ILI PIKA was first discovered, by accident, in 1983, and it has remained largely mysterious despite the efforts of naturalists ———- UNTIL NOW. The man who originally discovered the species —-decades ago ——— Weidong Li finally struck gold last summer, and now National Geographic has published a wonderful photo of the ILI PIKA. Li, a scientist at the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, led his team up a mountain and was confronted with exactly what he was looking for : the teddy-bear face of a curious ILI PIKA, peeking around a rock. “They found it hiding behind a rock, and they realised they had found the ILI PIKA,” Tatsuya Shin, a Chinese naturalist who works with Li, told National Geographic.
This adorable “magic rabbit” has a small furry body, mournful eyes and a rusty-red “splodge” on its forehead, but is not very “vocal”. It is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is even rarer than the Panda. The first time Li found the species, he managed to capture one and send it to a laboratory for identification —which was how he verified it as an entirely new species. 30 years later, a photo was enough to re-ignite his curiosity about the ILI PIKA.