A tiny group of nomads maintains the traditional skill of eagle hunting deep within Mongolia’s untamed, mountainous highlands. Training birds of prey to assist in the hunting of wild creatures such as foxes and tiny hares is a potent technique that has been passed down from father to son for thousands of years. Leo Thomas, a German photographer, recently traveled to Western Mongolia’s Altai area to document this interesting culture.
Today, there are about 300 eagle keepers left, with the great majority of them being men. Thomas, however, got the opportunity to meet Zamanbol, one of Mongolia’s only ten eagle huntresses, while on a trip to the distant Altai area. She is from a Kazakh nomad family and spends the most of her days in the city attending to school. On weekends, she and her brother, Barzabai, train with their trusted eagle. Zamanbol is shown on horseback and wearing homemade fur gear in Thomas’ photographs, exuding her free-spirited power and unshakable relationship with her eagle.
“While he’s living in the outdoors surrounded by family, amazing environment, and animals, I’m sitting more than 60% of my time in front of a screen,” Thomas adds of Barzabai (Zamanbol’s 26-year-old brother who happens to be Thomas’s age). “It’s a simple analogy, but it got me thinking.” Thomas’ magnificent images depict the grandeur of this hidden, ancient civilization, which is unlike anything else in the world.
Leo Thomas, a German photographer, recently traveled to Western Mongolia’s Altai area to film traditional eagle hunters.
There he met Zamanbol, one of Mongolia’s only ten female eagle hunters.
Thomas’ ever-expanding collection reflects the allure of this enigmatic society.