The impossibly cute critter above is an Ili pika, a tiny and incredibly rare rabbit-like mammal which can only be spotted in China. The Ili pika was first discovered in the Tian Shan Mountains of Xinjiang in 1983 and has hardly ever been seen since. Researcher believe that less than 1,000 exist in the wild today.
According to Yahoo News:
Although scientists know where to find the Ili pika, it’s still extremely hard to get on camera. For example, between 2002 and 2003 two researchers, Andrew Smith at Arizona State University and Li Wei-Dong at the Xinjiang Academy of Environmental Protection in Beijing, completed seven trips to twelve different sites to study population status of the animal. After 37 total days of attempted spottings, the two men came up completely empty handed.
Then, last summer, the man who originally discovered the species in ’83, Weidong Li, had a chance encounter with the elusive creature. He and a group of researchers were out in the Tianshan Mountains for, what else, pika spotting, when around noon they saw one and snapped the iconic picture above.
Since images of the Ili pika, China’s “magic bunny”, hit the web, the creature has become a viral sensation, a development that has actually worried Li.
“Many people have written to me to say they want to help me protect the pikas,” he said. “But more attention also means more danger for them.”
“We cannot let them disappear in front of our eyes,” Li said.
By Tanto Chen
[Images via: qq]