Kazakh Eagle Hunters in West Mongolia

Dawn Li (@li.dawn) is a Hong Kong-based photographer who travels to remote places of civilisations where traditions and cultures have still been preserved under the growing threats of globalisation, documenting via photography life of the people and tribes in exotic areas of the countries like Namibia, Iran, North Korea, Nepal, Bhutan, Morocco, Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia and Mongolia. Here are some shots from her latest trip to the Atlay Region in western Mongolia.

Kazakh Eagle Hunters in West Mongolia

by Dawn Li  [@li.dawn]

Kazakh Eagle Hunters Mongolia Atlay Region

I love to travel. Western Mongolia was a last-minute decision as there were so many targeted places in my mind and I hadn’t made it to western Mongolia during my first visit in April last year but the southern part only. It was the public holidays of the Chinese Lunar New Year during my travel. And to my surprise, the Mongolian Lunar New Year takes place the same time as the Chinese and also the same public holidays. I learnt that from a Mongolian lady sat next to me in the flight to Ulaanbaatar. No wonder the flight was so full, even though it was during the low season. Many Mongolian people were returning home for their new year.

A happy family photo for the Kazakh eagle hunters.  Mr Ardakh is a Kazakh eagle hunter living with his family in the Atlay Region. Their son is 19 years old and their daughter, called Molgir, is 11 years old. Life is so simple and yet so tough in the region because of the long severe winter. Herding is the main source of living for the nomadic people, whereas eagle hunting is a well-known traditional Kazakh activity.  Mr Ardakh’s son has become a young eagle hunter like his dad. In this remote area, there are no much entertainment but merely poker-playing and tv-watching. The latter also depends on the availability of solar power. During my stay, the host family enjoyed a lot seeing the photos and videos I took for them. It was so much joy out of the simple, peaceful life there and I was more than happy to do so.

Kazakh Eagle Hunters Mongolia Atlay Region mongolian girl

The Red Apple girl is the eldest daughter of Mr Ardakh’s youngest brother. Upon my arrival at Mr Ardakh’s home, I went out to walk around a few settlements next door, the 8-year old Red Apple girl was running home from another uncle’s house and I passed her along her way. We waved hello to each. I was so excited and cheerful to see such an adorable girl with red cheeks like a red apple. That’s why I nicknamed her and I took her some very lovely photos. I paid several visits to her during my stay there and I will tell a story about her in another post series in my Instagram ( @li.dawn ).

During hunting, the first step is to find the targets which are mostly foxes, wild rabbits, and marmots. The eagle is not just a hunting partner which works closely with the hunter, but also a buddy and a family member. The eagle was kept at home most of the time even though it produces quite often a series of high-pitched whistling. There are only male eagle hunters in the Kazakh region because it takes time away from home, deep in the high mountains, to train an eagle to hunt.

Kazakh Eagle Hunters Mongolia Atlay Region

Eagle hunting is a tradition of the Kazakhs in western Mongolia. There is a Golden Eagle Festival each year in October which is a big festival in the Kazakh region. Mr Ardakh’s lady eagle is 5 years old and was the fastest flying champion in the Festival. I went hunting with the eagle hunter for two days in the surrounding Altay mountains but the eagle didn’t fly, even though she was urged to do so. It was likely because she was fed too full the day before.

Kazakh Eagle Hunters Mongolia

If the hunting is successful and a fox is caught, the liver and meat of the prey will be fed to the eagle as a reward while the skin and hair of the prey will be used for making clothes.

 

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Mr. Ardakh, the eagle hunter champion, was wearing a traditional hat of the Kazakh hunters of which the fur is made of fluff of the foxes hunted. Eagle hunters are always equipped with a telescope and a gun during the hunting, in addition to a horse and their eagle partner. 🏔🦅👣🌲❄️ ❄️Altay region, western Mongolia #remotexpeditions #kings_works #lensculture #ig_worldclub #igworldclub #ig_respect #ig_captures #discover #exploremore #travelphotography #traveltheworld #people_infinity #portraitphotography #portraits #peopleoftheworld #peopleoftheworld #instapassport #lifeofadventure #ig_energy_people #ig_global_life #people_and_world #bbctravel #guardiantravelsnaps #letsgosomewhere #nomad #ig_global_people #natgeotravel #natgeoyourshot #natgeo #Mongolia

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The most memorable experience came from the children there, as always during my journeys. I stayed with several hosts with children. Their innocence and loveliness completely melted my heart and I could always learn from children happiness could be a very simple thing.

Kazakh Eagle Hunters Mongolia Atlay Region

Kazakh Eagle Hunters Mongolia Atlay Region

 

I ate horse meat while I was in Mongolia which made me feel bad. I like horses and camels and regard them as travelling partners, not meat on the table. Horse and camel meat are very popular delicacies in the Kazakh Region. I gave a remark to my travel agent but I think my guide forgot about it until somebody mentioned what we were eating and it was already the last few days of my journey. I thought it was yak meat.

 

 

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