Researchers in Afghanistan discovered snow leopards in 16 different locations in the northeastern region of the Asian country. Snow leopards are one of the rarest animal species on the planet, so the discovery of a surprisingly healthy population in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor has delighted researchers.

Using motion detecting cameras, the World Conservation Society captured video evidence of the animal's existence in the region. It is the first time that snow leopards have been video taped in Afghanistan.

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

It is believed that there are only 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards alive today. The population of the big cat has declined 20 percent over the last 16 years, thanks mostly to human intervention of all sorts.

The animals are hunted, and encroachment and new farm lands have diminished the snow leoplards' habitat. The Wakhan Corridor has been sheltered from the wars and violence that have occurred in Afghanistan throughout the years.

World Conservation Society has been working in the region since 2006, mostly tracking Marco Polo sheep and ibex. While the snow leopard discovery is encouraging, they are still considered a threatened species in the area.