I have never been so jealous of another girl in my life, and the reason why I feel this way is so incredibly spectacular, I’m shocked that I’m not making this up. 13-year-old Ashol-Pan of Western Mongolia is currently being trained in the art of falconry: hunting foxes and small prey from the Altai mountains using an eagle as your weapon of choice. As a child, this is the sort of career I would fantasize about for hours with glazed eyes, attentively watching and re-watching every National Geographic VHS special I could get my hands on. And from the looks of these spectacular photos captured by Asher Svidensky, it’s exactly as awesome as I thought it would be.
Training golden eagles and hunting with them is not simple: it requires long treks through the mountains in -40 degree temperatures, and I imagine doing so with a 15 pound eagle with a seven foot wingspan on your arm- especially as a child -is not a walk in the park. In his article for the BBC, William Kremer doesn’t explain how one goes about training an eagle, but if you’ve ever looked an eagle in the eye, you’d probably be decently intimidated that they’d peck your eye right out if you moved too quickly, so I don’t know how these kids have the stones to do it. Only 400 Kazakh (Ashol-Pan’s community) are practicing eagle hunters, which has been a male dominated activity for 2,000 years, but she’s more at ease with the large birds than her peers.
"Kazakh boys in western Mongolia start learning how to use the huge birds to hunt for foxes and hares at the age of 13, when the eagles sit heavily on their undeveloped arms. Svidensky, a photographer and travel writer, shot five boys learning the skill - and he also photographed Ashol-Pan."
"To see her with the eagle was amazing," he recalls. She was a lot more comfortable with it, a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it."
Hell yeah! The photos of Ashol-Pan and her eagle are awe-inspiring and I’m totally ready to accept her into my life as my model warrior princess. As the world enters the next technological era, cultures around the globe are dealing with the loss of traditional practices in favor of new ones, and the expansion of eagle hunting from an all male activity into one that’s possibly integrated opens up the opportunity for its survival.
Thanks to the BBC
Images via Asher Svidensky