Thousands of snow leopards have been saved from the dangers of mining companies thanks to the tireless efforts of a former language teacher turned animal activist.

49-year-old Bayarjargal Agvaantseren first became determined to save the vulnerable big cats after she spent some time working as a translator for a wildlife scientist back in the 1980s.

The big cat population of southern Mongolia has been dwindling as a result of habitat loss and poaching. Prior to Agvaantseren’s conservation efforts, snow leopards also fell prey to Mongolian farmers who were keen on protecting their livestock.

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Upon successfully creating an insurance program for local herders, however, Agvaantseren managed to recruit the farmers as allies in her fight to protect the big cats.

Then in 2009, she learned of extensive mining operations that were being launched in a critical area of snow leopard habitat in the South Gobi Desert.

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.

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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.

In recognition for her conservational career, Agvaantseren was recently awarded the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia.

“In a remote, unforgiving corner of the world dominated by runaway mining operations, Agvaantseren championed protections for Mongolia’s remaining population of snow leopards,” read’s the Goldman website. “Moreover, she was able to shift perceptions of snow leopards among herder communities, who now see the animal as an integral part of their identity.”

(WATCH the video below) – Photo by Goldman Environmental Prize

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