<p><strong>This cat's out of the bag—a camera trap recently captured a Persian <a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/leopard/">leopard</a> in <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/afghanistan-guide/">Afghanistan</a>'s central highlands, where the <a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats/">big cat</a> had been thought locally extinct.</strong></p><p>The newly released photographs, taken in the fall, include this September shot of an adult leopard investigating the camera, "appearing to threaten it with canines exposed," according to the <a href="http://wcs.org/">Wildlife Conservation Society</a>, which helped set up the camera traps. The images are "indisputable proof" that the big cat is hanging on in the region, the group said.</p><p>The camera traps also captured dozens of pictures of other wildlife species, including lynx, wild cats, wolves, red foxes, and stone martens.</p><p>(Related: <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/07/110711-afghanistan-animals-bears-wolves-environment-science-war/">"Afghanistan Bright Spot: Wildlife Surviving in War Zones."</a>)</p><p>"To see such a varied array of wildlife after we have endured so much conflict gives us hope for Afghanistan's future," Mostapha Zaher, director general of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement.</p><p>"Intact ecosystems represent a foundation for our country's reconstruction and development. This is also our heritage, our natural resources, our fauna and flora. It is incumbent upon all of us to conserve and protect our environment and hand it over to the next generation of the citizens of Afghanistan."</p>

Leopard Surprise

This cat's out of the bag—a camera trap recently captured a Persian leopard in Afghanistan's central highlands, where the big cat had been thought locally extinct.

The newly released photographs, taken in the fall, include this September shot of an adult leopard investigating the camera, "appearing to threaten it with canines exposed," according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which helped set up the camera traps. The images are "indisputable proof" that the big cat is hanging on in the region, the group said.

The camera traps also captured dozens of pictures of other wildlife species, including lynx, wild cats, wolves, red foxes, and stone martens.

(Related: "Afghanistan Bright Spot: Wildlife Surviving in War Zones.")

"To see such a varied array of wildlife after we have endured so much conflict gives us hope for Afghanistan's future," Mostapha Zaher, director general of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement.

"Intact ecosystems represent a foundation for our country's reconstruction and development. This is also our heritage, our natural resources, our fauna and flora. It is incumbent upon all of us to conserve and protect our environment and hand it over to the next generation of the citizens of Afghanistan."

Photograph courtesy WCS Afghanistan Program

Pictures: "Lost" Leopard—And Poachers—Seen in Afghanistan

Camera traps have revealed a leopard thought locally extinct in Afghanistan, along with other big predators—and a pair of poachers.

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