Ili Pika

Ili Pika.

The Ili pika is a species of mammal in the family Ochotonidae. After it was observed in 1983 by Li Weidong, it was not documented again until May 2014. Its population is declining due to largely unknown causes, and it is currently considered to be endangered. It somewhat resembles a short-eared rabbit, with a length of 20.3–20.4 cm and a weight of up to 250 gm. It has brightly coloured hair and displays large rusty-red spots on forehead, crown, and the sides of the neck. It inhabits the talus areas on high cliff faces, constructing hay piles, and is a generalised herbivore. It is mostly a diurnal species, but may exhibit nocturnal activity. Only one to two litters are produced each year, but litter size for this species is unknown. It is endemic to the Tian Shan mountains of northwest Chinese Province Xinjiang. Like other species of pika found in North America, the Ili pika lives at high elevations—between 9,200 and 13,450 feet (2,800 to 4,100 meters)—and subsists mainly on grasses, herbs, and other mountain plants.

A recent census indicated that the Ili pika may have been extirpated from the Jilimalale and Hutubi South Mountains. Its population has been reduced by 70% within 15 years. Population declines have been observed for several locations inhabited by this species. A recent census indicated that it may have been extirpated from the Jilimalale and Hutubi South Mountains. Populations have declined in the regions of Jipuk, Tianger Apex, and Telimani Daban. Only one examined site, the Bayingou region of Xinjiang Uygur, showed signs of previously observed abundance. An estimated 2,000 mature individuals existed in the early 1990s. 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 affecting populations. Low population densities and reproductive rates coupled with the relatively limited ability to disperse impede the ability of the species to recover from declines. There are no known conservation measures in place for the Ili pika.

The American pika, a different specie of pika from the Ili pika, is found in the mountains of western North America. Credit: Wikipedia.