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Eagle Hunters, Mongolia
Hannah Reyes Morales
For centuries, the Altaic Kazakh nomads in Bayan Ulgii have practiced the ancient art of hunting with golden eagles. But the art of falconry has dwindled through time due to modern hunting techniques.
In the year 2000, Kazakh nomads in Mongolia set up the ‘Golden Eagle Festival’ to promote and preserve the art of Kazakh falconry. The success of the festival in bringing in tourists and popularizing falconry has made eagle ownership much more appealing in a region that is one of the poorest in the country. Each year since the festival the number of registered eagle hunters has grown – from 60 in the first year to a couple hundred today.
Today, a generation of nomadic youth are embracing customs centuries old as they seek connection with their roots and the wild in a world being transformed by technology.
However simultaneous to the rise in number of registered hunters is the decline in the practice of ‘true’ falconry. It’s been observed that some registered hunters have never tamed or hunted in the wild with their eagle. The tradition is transitioning from one that was done in the context of genuine need for sustenance in the winter to one that is much more demonstrative – and the locals have mixed views on the issue.