Speed Reads

Really?

China is exterminating the real-life Pikachu

Pikachu is an undeniably cute Pokemon, but in China, the real pika is considered a pest.

Some ecologists don't agree with the "pest" classification, though, and scientists are criticizing China for its attempts to exterminate the mouse-like pika with mass poisoning.

A study at Arizona State University, published in the journal Ambio, claims that the pika has benefits for ecosystems and is a "keystone species." The pika burrows into degraded land, improving water infiltration and reducing surface flooding, according to the study. Pika burrows also create habitats for birds and lizards.

The pika lives predominantly in northwest China in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, and officials believe the animal is damaging local grasslands. China has treated land in the Qinghai province with zinc phosphate to eradicate the animal, and the most recent phase of poisoning cost the country roughly $35 million.