Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The first falconress of Mongolia: Incredible pictures of a teenage girl and her golden eagle

Their wingspan is almost double her height, but that does nothing to intimidate Ashol-Pan.

At just 13 years old she is believed to be the world's only falconress to use a majestic golden eagle to track down foxes and hares.

She is currently being trained along with give Kazakh boys in western Mongolia and photojournalist Asher Svidensky got a rare insight into the work she is being prepared for.

He told the BBC: "To see her with the eagle was amazing. She was a lot more comfortable with it [than the boys], a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it."

She will one day have to go out for days in temperatures as low as -40C to hunt for food with her golden eagle.

Svidensky says that the practice has been carried out in Mongolia for around 2,000 years and has always been a male activity. However, he adds that the fact a girl is now being trained - albeit the daughter of a celebrated hunter - says something about the country in the 21st century.

The Altai mountain range is the only place in the world where people hunt using golden eagles and it involves days of horseback trekking, high up to get a better view of prey.

There are around 400 falconers in the country and the birds they use are not bred in captivity, but taken from their nests soon after being hatched.

Svidensky says that when the eagle has finished working, the hunters leave a butchered sheep for them on the mountains for the final time they are released.

He said: "That's how the Kazakh eagle hunters make sure that the eagle hunters make sure that the eagles go back to nature and have their own strong newborns, for the sake of future generations."

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