April 14, 2010

Endangered Strangers: Ili Pika


"Now you come and say, "Don Ili Pika, be cute and fluffy for me. Perhaps squeak a little, as you pikas do." But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me "Godpika." You come into my house on the day my daughter-pika is to be married and act like a typical hooman, all up in my base, changin' my climates."
Pikas are short-eared relatives of the rabbit, which mostly inhabit colder climes in Asia, N. America & E. Europe. The tend to live in rocky areas and gather flowers and other plants into little grassy hillocks to sustain themselves through the winter. They are well known by hikers and nature lovers for their charming high pitched call. Eeeeeeeep!

There are many species of pika, and sadly, many of them are currently in danger, due to climate change. While only four species, (our friend the Ili Pika, Hoffman's Pika, Kozlov's Pika and the Helan Shan Pika) are classified as endangered, it is likely that many more should be or soon will be. In fact, a recent suit was brought against the US government by several environmental groups, attempting to have the American Pika, listed under the US Endangered Species Act --- but sadly, since these creatures really need our help, the petition was denied.

The danger from climate change comes from the fact that many pikas live on what are termed 'sky islands.' Essentially, they live high up on the rocky sides of mountains, and due to the climactic differences between the mountains and valleys in between, are unable to travel between mountain tops. This becomes a problem as our world warms, and even tiny shifts matter for the pika. Due to their dense fur, pikas are extremely sensitive to overheating, and as the climate warms, they must move higher and higher up their mountain to survive.

...but eventually these beleaguered little guys will reach the top of their sky islands, and have nowhere left to go.

What you can do to help pikas:

- Do whatever you can to reduce your carbon footprint, as global warming is the main threat to the pika. Some really easy (and healthy!) options are walking, biking or taking public transportation instead of driving, and choosing the local options at your supermarket. Think twice the next time you go to jump in the car! :)

- Tell others! We can get the American Pika listed as an endangered species and protected if we all speak up!

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