“People in the cities in Mongolia don’t even know that we have snow leopards. I’d like to work with them as well as the village communities,” Nadia (Tserennadmid) Mijiddorj told me recently. She is a vibrant young woman determined to help save snow leopards in her country.
I met her at the San Francisco Wildlife Conservation Day where she told me her story. “My father is a biologist and studies the Gobi bear in the Great Gobi National Park near Bayantooroi, Mongolia. As a child he took me into the field with him. That sparked my interest in nature and the environment.
“When I was in the 5th grade I saw a glimpse of my first snow leopard. Then later I met Tom McCarthy (who now runs the long term snow leopard project in Mongolia). I used to hang out with his kids and he inspired me to understand how important the snow leopard is to our country.”
Nadia works with Snow Leopard Enterprises, run by the Snow Leopard Trust. About 300 women in 20 communities have received training and materials to make beautiful traditional handcrafts like rugs and clothing. The handcrafts are sold by the Trust around the world and all the income goes back to the women and their communities.
“We visit each community every year and work with the women and talk to the kids. The kids learn from their mums, about the value of animals and conservation. I’d really like to work more with children; they can be a powerful message to the rest of the community too.”
As part of her work in these communities Nadia has developed a snow leopard teaching tool for teachers providing basic information in Mongolian. But for now she’s studying for her future work with snow leopards. She recently got a Wildlife Conservation Network scholarship and is studying for her Masters in Wildlife Sciences in India. “I got it with the help of Rodney Jackson, so that was really great.”
It was a real privilege to meet Nadia. I’m sure with her determination and learning she’s going to play an important role in the future of snow leopard conservation in Mongolia.