Snow leopard populations are no longer an endangered species – and it is partially thanks to the poachers who once hunted them.

Rather than trying to discourage Russian hunters from poaching the elusive big cats, the World Wildlife Fund decided to take advantage of their unique tracking skills and recruit them as researchers to help monitor snow leopard populations and movements.

RELATEDWatch the Badass Footage of Africa’s First All-Female Anti-Poaching Team in Action

Since the program was launched in 2015, snow leopard populations in Russia have stabilized and even improved in certain regions.

This trend is also likely a contributor to the snow leopard’s reclassification from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in 2017.

WWF now plans on implementing similar initiatives in the neighboring countries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as a means of ensuring the species’ protection.

(WATCH the breathtaking BBC video below) – Photos by WWF / WWF Mongolia

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