Want to lay your eyes on about the cutest mammal ever? The super rare Ili Pika fits the bill…and then some.
This little critter was only first discovered in 1983 and is so rare that there haven’t been that many sightings, only a handful, according to National Geographic. The Ili Piki is a mammal native to the mountains of Northwestern China and is not only a unique creature, but also looks so adorable it’s hard to believe it’s not a stuffed toy.
National Geographic notes that no one had seen the Ili Pika in years, until 2014, when scientist Weidong Li, from the Xinjiang Institute for Ecology and Geography, who originally discovered the animal, and a group volunteers went looking for the Ili Pika.
They were able to find one again among the cliffs, with naturalist Tatsuya Shin explaining, “They found it hiding behind a rock, and they realized they had found the pika. They were very excited.” Judging by the rare and adorable find, we’re not surprised by their excitement!
There is not a lot of known information about the pika. In 1983, Li discovered the animal when studying natural resources and infectious diseases in the mountains of the Xinjiang Province.
National Geographic reports: “The animal was about 8 inches (20 centimeters) long, with large ears and several small brown spots in its gray fur. Li wasn’t familiar with the species, nor were nearby herdsmen. Li caught a specimen and sent it to a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who said he believed the pika was a new species.”
The animal typically eats herbs and plants and lives in high elevations, between 9,200 and 13,450 feet.
National Geographic notes that the animal is “at risk” and vulnerable to extinction due to sensitivity to changes in its environment. In 1999, it was believed that only 2,000 pika lived in the area, but it’s likely the number is lower now due to environmental conditions.
The Cosmos News video shows more photos of the mammal with the teddy bear face, with one commenter noting: “They are very cute. They are also smart. Staying away from Humans will give it a chance to survive.”
Another person added: “I want one of these…damn these are adorable looking animals.”
Other commenters joked that the mammal looks like a real-life Pikachu, with another noting a pop culture Gremlins reference: “Remember not to feed them after eight and never ever let them get wet!”
Still another explained: “Different species of pikas are found all over the world. They need to live high in the mountains, where it’s cold, or they will die. Unfortunately for them, that means they ‘get stuck’ in one particular place (mountain range), sort of like they are living on isolated islands. Cute, but not very adaptable.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature further notes: “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 Ochotona iliensis populations (Li and Smith 2005). Low population densities and reproductive rates coupled with the relatively limited ability to disperse impede the ability of the species to recover from declines (Li and Smith 2005).”