thirteen year old ashol pan is part of a nascent movement of girls who are keeping alive the six thousand year old kazakh tradition of golden eagle hunting known as berkutchy.
though long the monopoly of boys — once deemed uniquely strong enough to carry a full grown eagle on their arms and endure harsh winter hunts — fewer are now learning the skill, abandoning their traditional semi nomadic ways for life in the cities.
berkutchy is a life long profession, and is often a hereditary one. but ashol’s brother left for the military, leaving her father, an experienced eagle hunter, to ask if she would take his place and assume training.
asher svidensky — who took these photos during a four month trek in the mountains of western mongolia’s bayan ulgii (or “rich cradle”) province, where only 250 hunters remain — told the bbc that where most boys are at first apprehensive around their eagles, ashol was very much at ease.
ashol, though still in school, will spend much of her time nurturing her eagle, imprinting herself on the fiercely independent bird from birth. after much time and training, her eagle — who is considered a member of the family — will learn to track down rabbits, foxes and wolves, whose furs are needed for the harsh winters.