WARNING: Cuteness overload! You can't help but smile when you lay your eyes on the Ili Pika, an adorable mammal native to Northwestern China. Not only is this likely the cutest animal in the entire world, what's even more intriguing is that it was only first discovered about 20 years ago! In fact, since it was accidently found in 1983, there have only been a handful of sightings. Not much is known about the pika except, of course, that is absolutely adorable!
According to National Geographic, years have passed since anybody has laid eyes on the creature. However, in the summer of 2014, Weidong Li, the scientist who originally discovered the pika, and a group volunteers set out on a pika search. Fortunately, they were not disappointed. A single, curious pika popped his head out of a cliff face to get a better look at the visitors.
It's incredible that we know anything about the pika at all. When it was first discovered in 1983 by Li, he wasn't sure what he was seeing when a small teddy bear-like creature emerged from a cliff. However, upon capturing a specimen he was able to send it for further testing by the Chinese Academy of Science. The results indicated that the specimen was, in fact, new to science.
What we do know about the animal is that it lives at incredibly high elevations and relies heavily on a diet of herbs, grasses, and other plants. National Geographic indicates that, like other animals that live at such high levels, the pika is especially sensitive to changes in their environment making them an "at risk" population.
National Geographic reports that in 1999, it was suspected that there were only 2,000 pika living in the region. However, outside impacts such as livestock grazing and even pollution have contributed to a likely decrease in that number.
The unfortunate thing? Because we know so little about the pika, not much is being done to conserve their way of life. Hopefully, education and public outreach will change all that. The world could definitely handle more pika faces!
For even more adorableness, check out the video and be sure to share this totally precious face with your family and friends!