One of the most beautiful animals on Earth, snow leopards inhabit the rugged and mountainous terrain of Central Asia and the Himalayan region. ©Surya Ramachandran

Snow leopards are powerful and beautiful big cats, native to the mountains of central Asia. Insulated by thick hair and possessing wide, fur-covered feet that act as natural snowshoes, they are well adapted to their environment. Their long tails, which help in maintaining their incredible balance, double as blankets against severe cold.

The harsh conditions of the snow leopard’s natural habitat makes the animal hard to study, so researchers and wildlife experts and photographers plant recording devices near snow leopard ranges in hopes of getting some footage of them. Recently, one photographer got extremely lucky.

In February of this year, Matse Rangja found 30 seconds of video of a snow leopard on one of the cameras he’d hidden in China’s Burhan Budai Mountains. This is only the second time in eight years that he’s been able to capture the cat on film.

Recently, rare footage of a snow leopard was found on a camera hidden in China’s Burhan Budai Mountains. ©ITN News

According to the World Wildlife Fund, about 4,000 snow leopards remain. They are currently in dramatic decline because of killings by herders, who see the cats as threats to their domestic animals; poaching, driven by illegal trades in pelts and in body parts used for traditional medicines; vanishing habitats; and declining mammal prey.

Watch Matse Rangja’s rare footage below. Then, read about the Snow Leopard Trust. The organization works with traditional herders who live with centuries-old customs to pioneer methods for living in harmony with snow leopards, in the world they share.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,