A rodent that resembles Pokemon’s Pikachu is being killed in China due to being perceived as an invasive pest. The government has been using mass poisoning to systematically reduce the critter’s numbers. Conservationists, however, are asking that officials put an end to the extermination, citing that its extinction could actually be an ecological hazard.

The rodent species is known as the pika and is believed to be the inspiration for the Pikcachu character in the famous Japanese cartoon Pokemon.

China began killing the Pikachu rodent back in 1958 after the animal began appearing in massive numbers and began damaging the livelihoods of farmers by eating and damaging their crops.

According to researcher Maxwell Wilson from Arizona State University, the findings show that the mass poisoning has done nothing to improve rangeland health. In fact, the opposite may be true. The underground tunnels created by the pikas actually create a pathway for water, which makes the land more porous and fertile. Pikas are also a natural food source for the brown bear, and absence of pikas makes the bears more prone to attacking humans.

Wilson recommends that China follows the footsteps of Mongolia, which has recently terminated its practice of mass pika killings after the release of scientific reports. So far, though, China has showed no plans of halting the extermination. In 2014, the country has designated over 31,000 square kilometers of land as areas for mass pika extermination.

In contrast with the beloved Pokemon character, pikas are not yellow and do not have the ability to shoot lightning bolts. The pika is a rodent that grows to about 23 centimeters in length and can be found throughout Asia as well as in North America and in Eastern Europe. They are mostly herbivores that mainly subside on a diet of grass and sedge. There are currently about 30 known species of pika, with a few that are already confirmed as extinct.

Even with its famous reputation as the famous Pikachu, it doesn’t look like China is going to back off its plan to kill off as many of the pika rodents as possible.

[photo credit: kkadow]