For today’s uncommon creature we have a ‘magic bunny’ which seemed fitting for this Easter day (hope everyone who celebrates today is having a Happy Easter!). Though it’s actually not really a bunny at all, but a highly-endangered Ili Pika, found only in China. Though it’s not a true rabbit, it is rather bunny-like and cute, so I decided to doodlewash one. With fewer than 1,000 of them left in the world, they are now even rarer than pandas. Conservationist Li Weidong first discovered this new species in 1983 and has been on a mission ever since to document and protect them.
There are many different kinds of pikas, but unlike other pikas, the one Li spotted had three distinct brown stripes on its forehead and around its neck. He and his team named the cute little animal Ili Pika because of where it was found, Ili Prefecture on the far west side of China’s Xinjiang province. After seeing the critter once more in 1990, it would be over 24 years before Li would ever see the elusive ‘magic bunny’ again. The pictures he released in 2014, upon finally discovering one again, went viral and he was able to raise additional money for his research via a crowd-funding site. Unfortunately, this also caused some misguided people to begin attempting to capture them as pets. A prospect that would only decrease their numbers as they are not adapted to live in lower altitudes.
They are the natural prey of foxes, weasels and birds, but they now have bigger things to fear. Their numbers are quickly decreasing due to climate change and a 71% habitat loss caused by the growing human population at the base of the Tianshan mountains where they live. Though little is known about them, Li and his team have set up infrared cameras to learn more about their behavior. The Ili Pika is an ancient species and Li is doing everything he can to protect them. If he and his team are successful, there’s still hope that the ‘magic bunny’ will survive us and be around for years to come.