Meet the Ili Pika, one of the rarest and most endangered animals in the world. The pictures below are the first images of this elusive mountain-dweller in nearly 20 years. The animal was first discovered by Li Weidong in 1983 in China’s Tianshan mountains.
The species, officially known as “Ochotona iliensis” was named Ili after Li’s hometown. Li, a conservationist, is also the one who captured the newest images in July of 2014. Scientists don’t know much about it, but they believe it’s related to rabbits.
Li says that the Ili Pika’s population has seen a drastic decline (nearly 70%) since he first discovered them. In an interview with CNN, he said he’d feel pretty guilty if they went extinct before his eyes. He’s retired early so he can spend more time studying these creatures.
He and some volunteers have estimate that the current population of the Ili Pika is under 1,000. He and his crew refer to the animal as the “magic rabbit.” Sadly, the threat of extinction is far from magical, as pollution and global warming contribute to the creature’s decline.
Currently, there is no official organization dedicated to the study or conservation of the Ili Pika. Li hopes that more people will join his efforts and continue his good work as he starts to get too old to climb the mountains.
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