Animal of the Month
August 2021

Name: Ili Pika (a.k.a. Magic Rabbit)

Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Ochotonidae
Genus: Ochotona
Species: O. iliensis

Size: 8 inches long.
Weight: Up to half a pound

Small, round pudgy body covered in fur, supported by four legs with three toes on each paw, short snout with little nose and whiskers, two large furry ears, small tail, two large eyes.
Color(s): Multicolored with black, brown, white and rusty-red.
Behavior: Solitary, most active by day during winter, most active by night during spring and fall.
Preferred Habitat: Rocky slopes at elevations 9,200-13,450 feet.
Range: Tian Shan mountain range in northwest Xinjiang, China.
Diet: Primarily herbivorous.
Lifespan: 7 years.

Status: Endangered

Some people are introverts, needing lots of time alone to recharge between social interactions. If you are an introvert, perhaps the ili pika is your spirit animal! The ili pika is such a recluse that it wasn't even discovered until 1983! Also known as magic rabbits, ili pikas are found exclusively in the rocky slopes of the Tian Shan mountains in Xinjiang, China.

Little is known about these adorable mountain dwellers. What we do know is that ili pikas are small furry mammals related to rabbits. They feed mostly on herbs and grasses, using rocks and grass for cover. Ili pika appear to be mostly diurnal during winter and mostly nocturnal during spring and fall. They are territorial and will fight others of their kind to protect their space, but they will make calls to one-another when a hawk or some other predator is spotted. At one year old they are able to reproduce, and a mother will give birth to a litter of babies twice a year.

Ili pikas are endangered. Since their discovery in 1983, they have been documented in the wild only twenty-nine times as of 2015. During that time, their population has appeared to drop 70%, leaving perhaps no more than two-thousands individuals in the wild. Usually when a species is threatened, the causes are obvious, but in the case of the ili pika it's something of a mystery. The strongest theories suggest that rising temperatures are making their habitat more favorable for predators such as foxes. Other theories point to pollution in the atmosphere and pressure to find more food are not helping. To make matters worse, the ili pika remains a relatively unknown animal and has no legal protections whatsoever.

Weidong Li, the conservationist who discovered the ili pika, is on a mission to change this dire situation. In 2015, he went back to the mountains and took the first photos of the animal in over twenty years. His photos have spread across the internet, helping to spread awareness of this little magic rabbit. It is the passion of Mr. Weidong and others like him that can, and will, help us learn more about this species and ultimately save it.

The magic rabbit needs your help! You can make a difference by...
  • ... signing and sharing this petition to protect the magic
  • rabbit's habitat!
  • ... asking your favorite conservation organizations that work with land animals to do more research on the ili pika. We know so little about this critter!
  • ... writing to your representatives. Tell them to make a case for the ili pika!
  • ... telling everyone you know that this animal exists, and that they need our help!
  • ... using your talents to spread the word! Are you a writer? An artist? A YouTuber? Flex your creative muscles to help save the ili pika.

Photo Credit: Weidong Li


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