China criticised for attempting to exterminate animal that inspired ‘Pikachu’

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Conservation scientists have strongly criticised the Chinese government’s efforts to exterminate the animal that inspired ‘Pikachu’, one of the central characters of the children’s television series Pokemon.

The ‘Pika’, also known as the ‘Whistling Hare’, has been the target of a massive campaign to reduce populations of burrowing animals in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in China’s northwestern region.

China has vehemently attempted to wipe out the population of pikas since 1958, when mass poisoning campaigns were first sanctioned by the government. More recently, state officials have deemed the animal a damaging element to the area’s grasslands.

Chinese red pika (photo: Archive)

However, research conducted by scientists at Arizona State University has shown that the pikas are, in fact, beneficial to the region’s ecosystem as their burrows offer water infiltration during monsoon seasons, which greatly reduces above-ground flooding in an area considered the source of 20% of the world’s fresh water.

Conservation scientists Maxwell Wilson and Andrew Smith at Arizona State University published a report stating, “When pikas are poisoned, their burrows collapse and these bird species disappear or their populations are greatly reduced.”

The report adds that the government’s policy towards pikas can be devastating to the ecosystem and could have “knock-on effects to human populations”.

The Chinese government’s most recent attempts to undermine the pika population in the region have cost an estimated $35 million USD in 2014 alone.

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau is the source of 10 major rivers flowing through Nepal, India, Pakistan, Thailand, and China.