In 1983, a Chinese conservationist was walking in the Tianshan Mountains near his hometown of Ili in Xinjiang, and discovered a cute little creature quite by accident.
Li Weidong, the scientist, named the new species Ili-Pikachu two years later, after he saw a couple more, and studied them til 1992 when he got a job transfer.
Sadly, he didn’t see the dear animal again for two decades until he spotted one last summer, according to qq news. He took these photos, showing it is almost 8 inches tall, with a face like a teddy bear, but longish ears more like a rabbit.
Ili-Pikachu is reported to be one of the world’s most endangered species, even rarer than giant pandas. They only live in the Tianshan Mountains, and their habitat is under threat as glaciers have receded, meaning they have to live higher up.
The number of Ili-Pikachu is drastically declining. In the 1990s, scientists estimated that there were only about 2,000 left, based on statistical analysis. And not long after, this cute little creature seemed to have disappeared altogether.
Although relieved to have found them again, Li Weidong is worried about these little creatures, as there are now fewer than 1,000 Ili-Pikachus in the wild.
Unfortunately, local authorities have not recognized the species as endangered, so there is no funding for research. Li has used his own money, and works with volunteers to learn more about these sweet animals, which they affectionately call “magic rabbits.”
The news was shared widely on the Chinese social media Weibo, and one blogger said:
Don’t let humans find you. Keep living on!