Ili Pika – The Adorable Small Mammal Rediscovered After 20 Years

ili pika

Credit: Weidong Li

A small mammal, the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis) discovered in the Tianshan Mountains of China in 1983 has been rediscovered. Originally discovered by Weidong Li from the Xinjiang Institute for Ecology and Geography, in the summer of 2014, after a 20 year hiatus, researchers once again spotted the animal.

Only 29 live individuals have been observed, and as a result very little is known about them. Scientists do know that the Ili pika can grow to be 20 centimeters in length, and that it’s habitat is between 2,800 to 4,100 meters. The creatures are generalized herbivores; their diet primarily mountain plants such as grasses and herbs.

Studies have suggested that there has been a noticeable decline in the species number, which has been speculated to be due to competition from grazing livestock and polluted air. It is estimated than in the 1990’s, Ili pika numbers were around 2,000 individuals. Their small population and slow reproductive rate will mean this decline will be difficult for the species to recover from.

 Despite the IUCN listing the Ili pika as vulnerable to extinction, no conservation efforts are being actioned.

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