You could call it one of the world's longest games of hide-and-seek.
Photograph by Li Weidong
Published April 7, 2015
For more than 20 years, the Ili pika—a type of tiny, mountain-dwelling mammal with a teddy bear face—eluded scientists in the mountains of northwestern China. People had seen the furry critter only a handful of times in the first few years after its discovery in 1983, and then the trail went cold. But in the summer of 2014, researchers rediscovered the pika.
That's when Weidong Li, the scientist who originally discovered the species, gathered a group of volunteers in China's Tianshan Mountains for some pika searching. At noon one day, as they were setting up camera traps, the team spotted a curious Ili pika emerging from a gap in a cliff face.
Like species of pika found in North America, the Ili pika lives at high elevations and eats mainly grasses, herbs, and other mountain plants.
A 1990s estimate put its population at about 2,000 individuals, but that number is thought to be decreasing. Even so, there are no strong efforts under way to help the Ili pika. Li says he hopes to change that, and to use the rediscovery of the animal to create conservation areas for the species.
Who could blame him? It’s pretty tough to turn down a face like that!
Text from "Unbelievably Cute Mammal With Teddy Bear Face Rediscovered" by Carrie Arnold for National Geographic News
Adapted by Rose Davidson, NGS Staff