You have likely never heard of the Ili Pika rabbit, that’s because it is one of the most rare species in the world. Careful not to fall too hard for the endangered Ili Pika rabbit, they may be the most adorable bunnies you’ve ever seen but their species is fleeting.
One Ili Pika was recently spotted and photographed on July 9, 2014 in its native country of China. According to estimates there are less than 1,000 of these rabbits left, and this particular rabbit was the first of its kind seen and documented in over 20 years.
The Ili Pika, which resembles a cuddly teddy bear, wasn’t discovered too long ago. The first Ili Pika was spotted in 1983 in the Tianshian Mountain range located in northwestern China. Since the first spotting the population has dropped by around 70%. Due to the rarity of the species, scientists know very little about it.
Conservationist Li Weidong is the man that discovered the rare species of rabbit. In an interview with CNN he revealed, “I discovered the species, and I watched as it became endangered. If it becomes extinct in front of me, I’ll feel so guilty.”
After Li Weidong saw the first Ili Pika, it took another two-years before he spotted another and it was declared an official species. It is very difficult to spot the rabbit; between 2002 and 2003 Weidong and his team went on a 37-day expedition and didn’t see one.
Weidong and his volunteers lovingly refer to the gorgeous species as the “Magic Rabbit.” They presume that the species is declining so rapidly due to the impacts of global warming.
There are several other factors suspected to play a part in the population decline, such as disease and the specie’s solitary and non-vocal nature, which prevents them from alerting one another to danger.
The Ili Pika is more rare and endangered than the Panda. It was listed as an officially endangered animal in 2008, but currently there is no official team or organization dedicated to protecting the adorable mammal.
On average the Ili Pika is only 20 centimeters long, or eight inches from nose to tail. They live on the steep bare rock faces and feed on tall grasses. Due to global warming, glaciers are receding and permanent snow can only be found at higher altitudes. This has caused the Ili Pikas to move higher up on the mountain, once found at 3,200 to 3,400 meters, they are now living at elevations of 4,100 meters.
Weidong (pictured above) retired early to dedicate himself to studying the Ili Pika, but at nearly 60-years-old he won’t be able to hike up the treacherous Tianshan Mountains for long. He says, “I really hope that an organization will have people study and protect the Ili Pika.”
Photo Credits: CNN