Rare 'Teddy Bear Face' creature photographed for first time in 20 years

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Thursday, March 26, 2015
The Ili Pika, seen for the first time in over two decades.
ABC News

The nearly extinct animal known for its adorable teddy bear face and bunny-like ears, has finally been found and photographed more than 20 years after it was first discovered.

Ochotona iliensis, the Ili pika, was accidentally discovered in 1983 by Chinese scientist Weidon Li in 1983 while on a government assignment to study natural resources and infectious diseases, National Geographic reported.

"As Li explored a valley by Jilimalale Mountain, he saw a small, gray head sticking out from a crack in the rock," National Geographic wrote. "The animal was about 8 inches long, with large ears and several small brown spots in its gray fur."

Li brought specimens to the China Academy of Sciences, which confirmed it as a new species in the 1980s. The Ili pika then eluded Li for more than 20 years until he spotted it again with a volunteer group last summer in the Tianshan Mountains in northwest China.

The Ili pika is considered to be vulnerable to extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The IUNC believes the primary threat to the Ili pika are increases in grazing pressure and global atmospheric pollution resulting in climate change.