The Ili pika has become the endangered species equivalent of a shot heard ’round the world. Since first surfacing online in mid-March at National Geographic, photos of this real-life teddy bear have gone viral, showing up everywhere from your best friend’s Facebook page to CNN.
Andrew T. Smith, a conservation biologist and pika expert at Arizona State University, confirmed to TakePart that the Ili pika is no hoax. “It’s a really isolated species,” said Smith, who first met the scientist who discovered this pika, Li Weidong, in 1988, “and a really cute, spiffy animal.”
It’s also in danger of extinction.