This former teacher turned into a savior of snow leopards
Once upon a time, thousands of snow leopards roamed the high altitudes of Asia’s tallest peaks. But habitat destruction and poaching caused their numbers to drop drastically.
In South Mongolia, these big cats had one more enemy – the Mongolian farmers who didn’t hesitate in killing them in order to protect their herds. To make matters worse, an extensive mining program was being launched in 2009 in a critical area of snow leopard habitat in the South Gobi Desert.
Thankfully, 49-year-old Bayarjargal Agvaantseren, a former language teacher, decided to step in.
Her advocacy resulted in the region being turned into the 1.8 million-acre Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve, which is the first federally protected area in Mongolia created specifically for snow leopard conservation.
Not only that, Agvaantseren also succeeded in persuading the Mongolian government to cancel all 37 mining licenses on the precious land and ban all future mining permits on the reserve. Further, she created an insurance program for local herders and managed to recruit the farmers as allies in her fight to protect the big cats.
In recognition for her conservational career, Agvaantseren was recently awarded the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia.