Researchers have discovered a healthy population of elusive snow leopards in Afghanistan, thanks to camera traps set up at 16 different locations along the Wakhan Corridor, a high-altitude panhandle in northeastern Afghanistan.

Snow leopards are among the most elusive and endangered animals in the world.  There are believed to be only 4,000 to 7,000 snow leopards alive today: The sleek and beautiful cats are victims of human intervention - destroyed by poachers, killed by shepherds protecting their flocks, and targeted by illegal pet traders.

The snow leopard's habitat is in the mountains of central Asia. There is a belief in China that the cats' penises and bones can enhance sexual performance, which has contributed to their illegal capture.

The snow leopard population is believed to have declined by as much as 20 percent over the last 16 years.

This is a wonderful discovery, Peter Zahler of the World Conservation Society said in a statement. It shows that there is real hope for snow leopards in Afghanistan. Now our goal is to ensure that these magnificent animals have a secure future as part of Afghanistan's natural heritage.

The area where the snow leopards were found is one of the few that are untouched by civil unrest and military conflict in Afqhanistan.

The 2006 BBC miniseries Planet Earth broadcast the first ever close-up footage of a snow leopard.

The mesmerizing footage - which tracks a snow leopard as she hunts a goat - took three years to capture, and was dubbed the holy grail of wildlife photography by the Telegraph.