Within the cliffs of the Tian Shan mountains, located in a remote area in northwest China lies the shrinking habitat and the last holdout for the rare creature, the Ili pika.
This rabbit’s tiny relative has always been a rare and elusive animal, and it just gets even rarer as the years go by. In the summer of 2019, National Geographic’s China edition was able to photograph it for the first time in 20 years, and its adorable photos were published just this month.
The conservationist photographer, Li Weidong discovered this rare species back in 1983. Ever since then, he has been documenting the slow and steady decline of the lli pika. Along with another scientist, they have been analyzing their tracks and droppings over the last years and have estimated the animal’s population. From the Ili pika’s numbers of 2,900 in the 1990’s, they have declined to only 2,000 in 2005. As of today, they assume that there may only be 1,000 Ili pika left surviving.
Li told CNN:
“I discovered the species, and I watched as it became endangered. If it becomes extinct in front of me, I’ll feel so guilty.”
Climate change is believed to be the main reason of the Ili pika’s decline. As the glaciers melt in the mountainous areas, animals that live there have to migrate to higher and higher elevations to find a permanent winter habitat. Sooner or later, as temperatures change drastically, they won’t have anywhere else to climb to.
Even though the IUCN has the Ili pika in their endangered list of animals, CNN has reported that it is not included in the list of China’s Wildlife under Special State Protection.
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