13-Year-Old Mongolian Girl's Hunting Partner Is A Golden Eagle

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 15 2014 3:22 PM

Meet a 13-Year-Old Mongolian Girl Whose Hunting Partner is a Golden Eagle

golden_eagle_
The golden eagle: beautiful and fierce and used for hunting in Mongolia.*

Tony Hisgett/Magnus Manske/Wikipedia

Ashol-Pan lives in the Altai mountains of western Mongolia. A member of the Kazakh ethnic group, she's part of the tiny (and traditionally male) community of living humans who train and keep golden eagles to hunt. And, yes, she's 13. Travel photographer Asher Svidensky captured Ashol-Pan—and her eagle—in action in a majestic series of photos you can see on the BBC's website.

"You don't really control the eagle. You can try and make her hunt an animal - and then it's a matter of nature. What will the eagle do? Will she make it? How will you get her back afterwards?" Svidensky said. Ashol-Pan, he said, is at ease with the beast.

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The BBC, with details about the actual hunting:

They hunt in winter, when the temperatures can drop to -40C (-40F). A hunt begins with days of trekking on horseback through snow to a mountain or ridge giving an excellent view of prey for miles around. Hunters generally work in teams. After a fox is spotted, riders charge towards it to flush it into the open, and an eagle is released. If the eagle fails to make a kill, another is released.

Swap dragons for a golden eagle and Ashol-Pan is Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, from Game of Thrones. Only she's 13 and this is real life.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post featured a photo of a buzzard, misidentified as a golden eagle.

Kelly Tunney is a Slate intern in New York City.

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