Thirteen-year-old Ashol Pan is one of the few girls being trained in the ancient art of eagle hunting, and she is part of a newly-evolving tradition. According to the Daily Mail, Pan was one of several Kazakh eagle hunters that photographer Asher Svidensky met while traveling through Central Asia. The Kazakhs of western Mongolia are some of the very last people left in the world who still hunt with golden eagles. As more boys leave home, it may now fall upon young girls like Pan to keep the tradition alive.
You can see images of Pan and her eagle below:
“The generation that will decide what will happen with every tradition that Mongolia contains is this generation,” Svidensky told the BBC. “”Everything there is going to change and is going to be redefined—and the possibilities are amazing.”
Pan is the daughter of a renowned eagle hunter, but it is still difficult for her to break into a traditionally male-dominated role. There are only an estimated 400 eagle hunters in the world, the majority of which are in Mongolia and nearby Kazakhstan. Pan got the chance to apprentice under her father when her brother joined the army.
Training a golden eagle is a daunting task, even for a confident girl like Pan. Potential eagle hunters begin their education at the age of 13, and only after they can bear the weight of the bird on their arms. The eagle itself must be born wild and captured young. With razor-sharp beaks and claws, golden eagles are fierce predators and can be intimidating for the new apprentices.
Hunts take place in late fall and early winter. Kazakh eagle hunters pursue their quarry from horseback and launch the birds after prey such as foxes, rabbits, and owls. Historically, eagle hunters also targeted the steppe wolf and worked in teams to harvest wild deer. Those animals are now considered too dangerous for a lone eagle to tackle.
Pan might still be a student, but Svidensky noted her confidence and natural ease with the bird. Her father said that she might take up the role of a full-time huntress, if she asks for it—after finishing her homework, of course.
“I decided to focus myself,” Svidensky told the Daily Mail. “Stop looking for a portrait of a centuries old image of a Kazakh eagle hunter, and instead represent the future of this ancient Mongolian tradition.”
More pictures of Pan and her eagle can be seen below: