Mongolia Travel for most travelers is usually filled with picturesque landscapes and the unique culture of the country. However, this is not the case for the Mongolia travel of photographer Asher Svidensky as he is caught up snapping what most probably is the world's only 13-year-old huntress with a golden eagle as a hunting partner. The photographer said his Mongolia travel while watching the teenager hunt was an amazing sight.
Asher Svidensky is a photographer and travel writer. During his Mongolia travel, he shot five boys learning how to hunt, and that's where he met 13-year-old huntress Ashol-Pan. He photographed Ashol-Pan in his Mongolia travel while the girl is hunting with a golden eagle.
While most children are afraid of wild animals such as the golden eagle, this is not the case for Kazakh boys in western Mongolia. If you're lucky enough on your Mongolian travel, you might encounter these Mongolian boys as they start learning how to use the majestic birds in their hunt for foxes and hares. When the Kazakh boys hit puberty at the age of 13, they start training how to hunt with the eagles.
Asher Svidensky told BBC website of his shoot with Ashol-Pan and the Kazakh boys on his Mongolia travel, "To see her with the eagle was amazing. She was a lot more comfortable with it, a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it."
Ashol-Pan is the daughter of a celebrated hunter in Mongolia, and she is her father's apprentice huntress. Living in western Mongolia, the Kazakhs of the Altai mountain ranges are the only people that hunt with golden eagles. These days, you will find only around 400 practising falconers in your Mongolia travel.
According to BBC, falconers "hunt in winter, when the temperatures can drop to -40C (-40F). A hunt begins with days of trekking on horseback through snow to a mountain or ridge giving an excellent view of prey for miles around. Hunters generally work in teams. After a fox is spotted, riders charge towards it to flush it into the open, and an eagle is released. If the eagle fails to make a kill, another is released."
Fascinated with the falconer children during his Mongolia travel, Svidensky said the skill of hunting with the golden eagles lies in harnessing an unpredictable force of nature. He said: "You don't really control the eagle. You can try and make her hunt an animal - and then it's a matter of nature. What will the eagle do? Will she make it? How will you get her back afterwards?"
To those worried about how the animals came into the hands of the Kazakhs, there is nothing to fret about as the eagles are not bred in captivity, but taken from nests at a young age. Female eaglets are chosen since they grow to a larger size. After hunting with an eagle for years, a hunter releases his mature eagle a final time, whilst leaving a butchered sheep on the mountain as farewell. Svidensky said on his shoot in his Mongolia travel, "That's how the Kazakh eagle hunters make sure that the eagles go back to nature and have their own strong newborns, for the sake of future generations."
Mongolia travel for the photographer was not only memorable but spectacular. He said that Ashol-Pan was a smiling, sweet and shy girl, but his photographs of her while hunting with a golden eagle begs to differ. Hunting with eagles, a male activity for around 2,000 years is a new development in Mongolian culture in the 21st Century.