Wildlife photographer Matse Rangja caught a lucky break recently when a snow leopard walked right up to a hidden camera he planted in China's Burhan Budai Mountains.
Capturing the endangered species on film is extremely rare; in eight years, Rangja has only been able to accomplish the feat once before, the Guardian notes. The Tibetan photographer recorded the raw video in February but unveiled the raw footage of the snow leopard on Thursday.
In the short video clip (seen above), the animal sniffs around the rocks, confronting the infrared camera before trudging away.
Snow leopards, native to the mountains of central Asia, live high in the ranges, in extremely cold environments, National Geographic notes. The harsh conditions make the species difficult to study, so researchers and wildlife experts usually plant recording devices near their habitats in hopes of capturing the snow leopards on film.
During his photography trips, Rangja keeps an eye out for the snow leopards' tracks and excrements in order to determine where to place his video cameras.
"[I]f I find the footprints, I will hide my camera nearby," he explained to New Tang Dynasty Television.
In December, raw footage of a female snow leopard and her two cubs was captured by a camera hidden high in Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are an estimated 6,000 snow leopards remaining the world. However, the population of the species, which the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species specifies as endangered, continues to drop as the animals face human conflict and hunting threats across their native habitat.