The Ili pika, an endangered animal that resembles a Pokemon character, was seen in China for the first time in 20 years and captured in a photograph that is now going viral.
Retired scientist Li Weidong first discovered the Ili pika, a bear-like creature with some resemblance to a panda, in 1983 and named it after his hometown of Ili, according to CNN.
He spotted it again in the early 1990s but hadn’t seen it since then. That is, until last July when he snapped a photo of the Ili pika — official name: Ochotona iliensis — in China's Xinjuang mountains.
At the time of its discovery, scientists believed there to be about 2,900 Ili pikas in the world, according to the Daily Mail.
Li said that he now believes that number to be down by about 70 percent.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature placed the species on its endangered list in 2008.
"I discovered the species, and I watched as it became endangered," Li told CNN. "If it becomes extinct in front of me, I'll feel so guilty."
The Daily Mail wrote that not much is known about the Ili pika's ecology, behavior, or reproductive patterns because there have not been any significant observations done on the species. Li said he believes that global warming is having some impact on the mammal's decline.
"This tiny species could be extinct any time," he said. "They don't exist in the sites where they used to be anymore."
The International Union of Conservation and Nature's Red List of Threatened Species
noted that, in 2002 and 2003, researchers found no Ili pikas in 57 percent of locations which they inhabited 20 years ago.
"Population declines have been observed for several locations inhabited by this species," the Red List stated. "A recent census indicated that Ochotona iliensis may be extirpated from Jilimalale and Hutubi South Mountains. Populations have declined in the regions of Jipuk, Tianger Apex, and Telimani Daban."
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