Li Weidong Photography

This Rare Animal Is The Closest Thing To A Real-Life Teddy Bear (Photos)

With its fluffy face and delicate ears, the Ili pika is about as close to a stuffed animal as you'll find in the animal kingdom.

The only problem? They're nearly impossible to find.

Until the summer of 2014, this particular kind of pika hadn't been photographed since the early 1990s – more than 20 years beforehand.

The endangered, elusive animal makes its home in the craggy Tianshan mountains in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, reports CNN.

Preservationist Li Weidong was the first person to spot and name the pika, after his hometown Ili, in 1983.

It's only fitting, therefore, that he's the person who spotted one among the rocks last year – after all, he's devoted his life to the species.

And although pikas retreat higher into the mountains with each passing year, they're still alive. Li's proof is in the photos he shot in 2014.

In an interview with CNN, Li warns,

I discovered the species, and I watched as it became endangered... This tiny species could be extinct any time. They don't exist in the sites where they used to be anymore.

The elusive Ili pika, nicknamed the "R," is increasingly rare.

According to Li, there less than 1,000 mountainous pikas left thanks to a changing habitat greatly affected by global warming.

In 2013, National Geographic reported even the American pikas, which make their home in Washington, have been reduced to chomping down on fibrous mosses.

Li, who's reportedly spent about $32,000 on pika research, hopes to set up a foundation in order to sure the little animal's safety long after he's gone.

Citations: This Rare u2018Magic Rabbitu2019 Was Spotted For The First Time In 20 Years And It May Soon Be Lost Forever (Bored Panda )