Hunting with eagles
This 4,000 year-old art is dying out in Mongolia. The Kazakh eagle hunters of Mongolia, in pictures.
In one of the planet’s most desolate and harsh terrains, the Altai Mountains which run from Siberia in Russia down to Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, hunting with eagles is currently only practiced by a handful of Kyrgyz and Kazakhs.
This form of falconry, the practice of hunting with the aid of birds of prey, can be traced back as far as 4,000 years in Central Asia.
Since 2014, after leaving a senior corporate job and wanting to document remote cultures around the world, photographer Tariq Zaidi has been photographing the Kazakh eagle hunters. For Kazakhs living in western Mongolia, hunting with eagles is a proud art, and one of the highest expressions of their cultural heritage.
Today, the art is slowly dying out, as there are only about 70 traditional eagle hunters left in the world. For these remaining few, it is not simply an important tradition or an extraordinary sport; it is their reason to live.
The hunters must forge an intimate relationship with their birds. Eagles are captured as chicks from their nest in the wild. The training process, which takes three or four years has to be done by just one person in order to develop the necessary bond between master and eagle. (Tariq Zaidi)
The Kazakh community in North Western Mongolia have managed to preserve their traditions as a result of their physical isolation. (Tariq Zaidi)
With eagles having a life expectancy of up to 40 years, they essentially become a member of the family. (Tariq Zaidi)
They believe that “if the eagle doesn’t manage to hunt, it will die”. (Tariq Zaidi)
Asholpan is the 13-year-old daughter of a legendary Kazakh eagle hunter. Asholpan may well be the only female eagle hunter in the world among the 70 that remain. (Tariq Zaidi)
The delicate art of training an eagle is handed down from generation to generation. The eagle cannot be controlled; instead a bond is nurtured with its master and it is taught how to hunt effectively. (Tariq Zaidi)