The Last of the Mongolian Eagle Hunters
By Palani MohanJanuary 29, 2013
In remote Mongolia, a few men continue the dying tradition of training golden eagles to hunt. Australian photographer Palani Mohan describes his project to document what remains of this centuries-old culture.
The isolated and inhospitable Altai Tavan Bogd National Park in Mongolia nestles against the borders of Russia, Kazakhstan and China. The country’s last remaining eagle hunters live around here, their nomadic lives unchanged for centuries.
The cadence of their year is governed by the seasons. Foxes, wolves and other animals are essential for food and clothing here, so when the game moves on, so do the hunters move their tented homes, called Gers, taking their golden eagles to more abundant hunting grounds.
Australian photojournalist Palani Mohan is documenting the lives of the eagle hunters with an increasing sense of urgency. He estimates there are about 35 to 40 family groups left who still live this way, but the numbers are growing fewer each year.
“There are only a few of the true hunters alive; many keep eagles more as pets. Those hunters left are getting old. Each winter claims more of them while the young are drawn irresistibly to the cities and a different way of life,” he says.
“For me it’s a fight against time,” Mohan says, though this ongoing documentary project is among the toughest work in his distinguished career. Temperatures drop so low, he says, his digital cameras fail to fire unless he warms the batteries under his arm, inserting then just before pressing the button.
Mohan is planning his next journey in April and intends to publish a book of his work.
Listen to his description of the golden eagle hunters on the Soundcloud above, and play the slideshow of an edited selection of his work.
You can see more on his website.