In 1983, a very rare species of mammal was officially discovered in China by Li Weidong. The Ili Pika is critically endangered, with an estimated 1,000 left, as of 2015. Not much new info has come out about that number in the past few years.
The Ili Pika is a distinct variety of Pika, a family of mammal known as Ochotonidae, native to northwest China with other Pika mammals present in regions of the world ranging from the Himalayas to North America. A pika is a cousin of the rabbit, closely resembling them with features such as very round bodies, short limbs, and no external tails.
One of the highest elevation living animals on Earth is the large-eared Pika, native to the Himalayas and other nearby mountains. Distinctly different from these Pika, the Ili Pika made headlines a few years ago and hopefully people haven’t forgotten about them.
A Wikipedia page about the Ili Pika notes that “there are no known conservation measures in place for the Ili pika,” citing reproductive rates that are problematic and low population densities for the animal, thought to be related to atmospheric pollution and a few other factors.
Information about the cute creature is so scarce, it is necessary to look at some articles from nearly 4 years ago, when it was believed that the population of the mammal was reduced by 70 percent since their discovery in 1983. It is feared that they are facing extinction.
In March 2015, Li Weidong took some footage of the animal for the first time in 20 years, as part of a plan to raise money to help save them. He also noted that the action of trying to raise awareness of these mammals needing help with survival actually could have been to the detriment of the species, because people allegedly wanted to keep them as pets.
Weidong is pretty much the only person trying to save the endangered animal, and Chinese authorities still don’t seem to have recognized the animal as endangered at all.
He raised upwards of $23,000, but also unfortunately was met with several unwelcome demands for capturing the pika, for breeding in captivity and the sale of the animals as pets.
For who knows how long, the animals have roamed the Tianshan mountains of China, but according to the man caring for them, the publicity has brought this. It’s ironic though, because he’s speaking about how speaking about it may be making the situation worse.
In any case, he said: “Ili pikas, as alpine animals, can’t adapt to the environment at low elevations without special facilities.
Would they survive? Their population is already small enough. Human capture will accelerate the extinction.”
If someone kept one of these endangered creatures as a pet without trying to let it reproduce and continue the species, that would be a common sense lack of consideration, not that it’s unlikely some would do this.
The panda is of course another animal in China that is endangered, a form of life that is objectively beautiful and aesthetically stunning to us people.
If there’s anything positive at all that can be derived from a sad story about a species that might face extinction, it’s that life can take on almost any form imaginable. There’s something spiritually fulfilling to focus on that: think about all the different animals and forms of life that exist on Earth.
It’s an objectively true sign that life is rich and full of potential, seeing the various forms it becomes. One can consider the variety of life forms a sign that whatever this life is, it has more depth than we may remember when we feel dread about life. Focusing on things like the existence of beautiful animals, or having pets for instance, can really add meaning to a person’s life.