The Ili pika, a rare animal with a teddy bear face and bunny-like ears, finally has been found and photographed more than 20 years after it was first discovered.
Li accidentally discovered the species in 1983 while on a government assignment to study natural resources and infectious diseases, the magazine said.
“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 (20 centimeters) long, with large ears and several small brown spots in its gray fur.”
In the 1980s, Li brought specimens to the China Academy of Sciences, which confirmed it as a new species, the magazine said, adding the Ili pika then eluded Li for more than 20 years until last summer, when a volunteer group with Li went “pika searching."
The Ili pika lives in China and considered vulnerable to extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Increases in grazing pressure and global atmospheric pollution resulting in climate change are believed to be the primary threats to these animals, according to the IUCN.
The Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, where Li reportedly works, did not immediately respond to ABC News' calls and emails requesting to speak with Li for additional comment.