There are two frequently quoted buzz words in the Human Planet offices… man, and nature. By man, we are of course colloquially referring to the human race and not just the male denomination of our species. By nature, folk here tend to be alluding to animals in the first instance, and then to our environment if the zoological aspects are less obvious. Not surprisingly, in the 21st century, with many of us completely cut off from our natural environment living in towns and cities, genuine cultural stories of humankind’s reciprocally advantageous relationship with mother nature are becoming few and far between.
And so I find myself once again in Mongolia, a country that over the last year has completely captured my heart for ever. From sandy desert to lush grasslands and now to the snowy Altai mountains in the far west, I have arrived at a remote Kazakh community that is home to amongst others, Mongolia’s fabled eagle hunters.
Six months ago, a Human Planet film crew journeyed here in order to film a father’s search for a golden eagle for his young son. This involved climbing down a portion of a 500 ft cliff face to collect the flightless chick from its nest and then the subsequent documentation of the adoption process during which the two species, man and bird, both impressive hunters at the top of their prospective food chains, became partners in a mutually beneficial relationship.
That boy was called Berik. That’s him in the photo at the top of the page hunting foxes for the first time with his majestically grown up golden eagle.
Coming here to photograph this narrative, I imagined that it would be the story of a father’s tutorship of his son in the ways of eagle hunting. What has actually transpired for me is a beautifully intimate tale of a boy’s relationship with what must surely be one of the most magnificent flying creatures on our planet. We have travelled on horseback through the mountains watching in awe as Berik and his father hunt with their eagles, tracking animal prints in the snow and then launching their deadly co-workers from these monumental high peaks to capture their prey.
Observing a golden eagle at close quarters is a rare delight for a British fellow like myself. Prior to this trip I had only ever seen these glorious beasts down the barrel of a very long lens in a Scottish wilderness. Now I find myself unusually blasé as I sit eating breakfast in one of our gers, a bird perched either side of me, one rubbing its beak repeatedly on my shoulder. Mongolia is a truly fantastic place. This will be my last trip here for Human Planet, but I will most certainly be back some time.
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Interested in more stories from Mongolia? Try HERE