Even as many populations shrink, scientists continue to stumble upon unbelievable animals.
The Ili pika is a tiny mammal native to the Tianshan Mountains in northwestern China. First discovered by accident in 1983, the animal has remained largely mysterious, despite the efforts of naturalists - until now.
The man who originally discovered the species decades ago, Weidong Li, finally struck gold last summer, and now National Geographic has published his terrific photo. Li, a scientist at the Xinjiang Institute for Ecology and Geography, led his team up a mountain and was confronted with exactly what he was looking for: the teddy bear face of a curious Ili pika, peeking around a rock.
"They found it hiding behind a rock, and they realized they had found the pika," Tatsuya Shin, a Chinese naturalist who works with the scientists, told National Geographic.