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All Creatures,

Episode 72: Pika Who? Ili Pika, That’s who!

February 05, 2019

IMAGE taken by Li Weidong 

Without doubt, the Pika (pie – ka) is one of the most charismatic mammals on Earth. The Ile (ee-lee) Pika from China is endangered and has just been recently been spotted after an absence of nearly 20 years. Listen to learn more about why this species is so special and also critical to science.

*Just a note, we recognized we mispronounce Pika throughout the episode but decided to leave it since we recorded it with so much passion. Pika is properly pronounced as noted above “pie ka”.

Pika Description

Pika are from the lagomorph family that includes rabbits and hares. Pika resemble rabbits without tails and with more rounded ears. There are 30 species of Pika, with only 2 in North America and the others in Asia and Eurasia.

Ili Pika (Ochotona iliensis)are native to China and were first discovered in 1983 by Weidong Li in the Tianshan Mountains. They disappeared for almost 20 years and then were seen once again in 2014. Images captured quickly went viral and endeared many millions to the Ili Pika and their plight, these animals are facing extinction. These animals are mottled grey with distinct round spots, giving them a “teddy bear” appearance.

Pika are now being monitored by scientists in North America and Asia due to their sensitivity to temperature. With global climate change, Pika are very sensitive to higher temperatures and can die rather quickly with temperatures exceeding 78 °F. As overall global temperatures increase, Pika are ranging higher, and may go extinct in many areas.

Pika Facts

The Ili Pika is considered one of the larger Pika found around the world. Yet, they only measure around 9 inches (20 cm) long and weigh 11 oz (250 g).

Other facts include:

  • Live 3 to 7 years
  • Diurnal, tend to be active throughout the day and throughout the year
  • Herbivores
  • Prey animals for large cats, birds of prey, coyotes, wolves and other predators like weasels
  • Creates “hay stacks”, meaning they allow their forage to dry out in the sun before being moved into their burrows for storage
  • Very vocal
  • Sociable
  • Undeniably the cutest animal ever!! (no bias here..)

Ili Pika Conservation

The Ili Pika is considered endangered by the IUCN. The last estimate was done in the 1990s with less than 2000 individuals remaining. Many threats due to human encroachment, with climate change, are driving these adorable animals to the brink. Weidong Li is the driving force in trying to protect these animals.

Conservation Tips

Ways to help reduce water consumption and improve your own local habitat is to water your lawns during the cooler times of day, or when it is less windy. Plant native shrubs and use mulch to protect the moisture content in flower beds. Let your lawn grown higher in the hotter months of the year.

Organizations to Support

Front Range Pika Project

Videos

Pika Foraging

American Pika Calls

Pika Documentary

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