The rare Ili pika has never been photographed. Until now.
This little teddy-bear mountain mammal hasn't been seen since its discovery in 1983 by a Chinese scientist, Li Weirdong. Now, 20 years later, it has been finally been spotted and photographed.
Not much is known about the elusive Ili pika. It lives in the high Tianshan Mountains in China, grows up to be about eight inches long, has pretty large ears, and a very cute little face. Only 29 of the Ili pika have ever been spotted. Li spotted the Ili in 1983, concluded it was a new species, and named it Ili after his hometown.
There are other species of pika found in North America that belong to the rabbit and hare family.
The Ili pika were put on the endangered list in 2008, due to estimated numbers being less than 1,000. Li decided to put a team together to find the Ili pika in order to do more complete studies in order to keep it from extinction. He told reporters;
"I discovered the species, and I watched as it became endangered. If it becomes extinct in front of me, I'll feel so guilty."
Last year, Li brought 20 volunteers into the mountains in China to track down the elusive Ili pika. They found one and got these pictures that have never before been captured. They concluded that there are 1,000 Ili pika left in the world.
The steady decline of the species can be attributed to habitat loss, glacial melt, and disease. The Ili pika typically live at around 3,000 meters elevation but due to rising temperatures melting glaciers, they have retreated up to 4,000-meter elevation.
What is needed now is recognition of the species and hopefully with the world's connectivity through social media, this little teddy-bear face will get noticed quickly.
China still does not include the Ili pika on its List of Wildlife under Special State Protection but hopefully recognition will change this and we won't lose the Ili pika species forever.
All images via CNN