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Kyrgyzstan’s Last Eagle Hunters

23rd August 2016


Davina from our sales team reminisces over a unique experience had on our Kyrgyzstan Explorer tour.

Hunting with eagles in the Eurasian Steppe can be traced back to the first or second millennium BC. The fact that this traditional form of falconry is still used today by some Kyrgyz and Kazakh people is testament to its social value and cultural importance. I had the opportunity to learn more about this fascinating tradition on a recent trip to Kyrgyzstan where we met a father and son who have trained Golden Eagles for some 30 years now.

Kubatbek and Ruslan led us down a stony track, the wheels of their beaten old Lada spinning clouds of dust in their wake. Ruslan got out of the car to check the spot was suitable. Bright blue skies, a dazzling yellow sun, hilly fields & wild flowers blowing in the breeze….it looked picturesque to me. Beside Issyk Kul we looked on curiously as the two men unpacked their precious cargo.

Karakys and Karachin were two majestic-looking Golden Eagles. At 4 years and 18 months respectively, they were both in the early stages of their training. Hunters work with the female species only and snatching them from the nest at a young age is no mean feat. Steep, unwelcoming cliff faces and a highly protective mother are all that lay between a man and his hunting partner. Living to 50 years old these birds will spend half their life time with the hunter before they are freed to the wild again.

These sky giants weigh in at about 5 – 7 kilos and have claws to die for…quite literally. I was hugely impressed by the bond between eagle and hunter as Karakys called to the sound of Ruslan’s voice as he perched comfortably on his master’s forearm. Kubatbek explained to us how he had trained his son Ruslan to become an eagle hunter so he could continue to support their family. From September through to February the hunters fly these birds in search of prey – be it wolves, foxes or rabbits - and they share the profits equally.

Gazing on as the eagles dipped and dived in demonstration I was delighted to see the cheeky Karachin disobeying her master on several occasions. As Ruslan admitted somewhat sheepishly, she is after all a wild bird and even well-trained eagles enjoy a day out in the sun. With only 15 professional hunters left in Kyrgyzstan, I feel somewhat privileged to have witnessed these skilful partnerships at play. A fitting end to an unforgettable journey through Kyrgyzstan!

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