An endangered species became a little less endangered this week.

A large group of snow leopards, whose population has declined by 20 percent over the past 16 years to between 4,500 and 7,500, was discovered to be thriving in northeastern Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor.

The study, performed by Wildlife Conservation Society conservationists Anthony Simms, Zalmai Moheb, Salahudin, Hussain Ali, Inayat Ali and Timothy Wood, utilized community-trained rangers and trap cameras to track leopards across 16 different locations.

"This is a wonderful discovery – it shows that there is real hope for snow leopards in Afghanistan," said Peter Zahler, Wildlife Conservation Society Deputy Director for Asia Programs.

"Now our goal is to ensure that these magnificent animals have a secure future as a key part of Afghanistan's natural heritage."

The snow leopards remain threatened in the region due to poaching and capturing by local hunters and shepherds.

To combat these threats, the Wildlife Conservation Society has engaged in a series of community training, education and outreach efforts to help local populations preserve the animals.

Conservation efforts are taught in schools near the Wakhan Corridor, and 59 rangers have been trained to monitor not only the snow leopards but other threatened species in the area as well.

"By developing a community-led management approach, we believe snow leopards will be conserved in Afghanistan over the long term," said Simms, the study’s leader.

The study appears in the June 29 issue of the Journal of Environmental Studies.