A surprisingly healthy population of snow leopards has been discovered in the mountainous region of Wakhan Corrider, Afghanistan, reported the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The WCS spotted the rare and elusive cats at 16 different locations using camera traps.  The captured images (below) are the first camera trap records of the snow leopards in Afghanistan.

The discovery gives hope to the world's most elusive big cat, which calls home to some of the world's tallest mountains. Between 4,500 and 7,500 snow leopards remain in the wild scattered across a dozen countries in Central Asia, stated the WCS.

Snow leopards, which once roamed much of Central Asia, is now severely endangered because of threats from humans; they are poached for their pelts, attacked by shepherds trying to protect their flocks, and captured as pets.

In order to protect them, the WCS is training conservation rangers, constructing predator-proof livestock corrals, and rolling out programs to compensate shepherds for flocks killed by snow leopards.

Snow leopards are widely used as a symbol for various ethnics groups in Central Asia, likely due to its striking looks and secretive nature.