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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Moupin Pika

Family : Ochotonidae
Species : Ochotona thibetana

Head-Body Length : up to 18 cm
Tail Length : none
Weight : up to 135 grams

Pikas are small mammals in the family Ochotonidae in the order Lagomorpha: the latter also includes the family Leporidae (hares and rabbits). They range across montane regions of North America, eastern Europe and central Asia.

As of 2016, IUCN recognise 29 species of pika, many of which occur in montane regions of Asia. The Moupin Pika appears to be the only species whose range unequivocally extends into Myanmar, and thus is probably the only species within Southeast Asia. (The existence of Forrest's Pika Ochotona forresti in Myanmar does not appear to be substantiated by verifiable records [Smith & Liu, 2016]). Moupin Pika inhabits montane forest, including bamboo forest.

All pikas are fully herbivorous and their diet includes grasses, sedges, mosses and lichen. They are exclusively diurnal: by night they retreat to the safety of their burrows which may be in loose soil or amongst rocks. They are not known to hibernate, but can survive harsh mountain conditions by accumulating a store of vegetation in their burrow which can be consumed when needed.

In common with rabbits and hares, pikas have a two stage digestion process, which includes hindgut fermentation: this requires that initial soft faeces are eaten again before finally emerging as solid faeces.

When alarmed, pikas emit a high-pitched squeak which alerts others to the presence of danger.

The fur of Moupin Pika is typically yellowish brown above, with some seasonal variation, and
somewhat paler below. There is a pale patch behind the ears, and the fur is smooth in texture. They have a relatively large head, with rounded ears with a white rim, short limbs, a rounded body and no external tail.

Within Southeast Asia, Moupin Pika is known from northern Myanmar: its range also extends into northern India and southern China.

Fig 1 : Moupin Pika sitting outside its burrow. Seen at an elevation of around 2500 metres in Bhutan. Photo thanks to Ng Bee Choo.

References : M1

Smith, A. T. & Liu, S. (2016). Ochotona thibetana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (Accessed 14 October 2017).


Fig 1 ゥ  Ng Bee Choo