​1st Prize 新たな生活を求めて 

In Search of a New Life Photo by Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Special Prize

by Jury

In her footprints

Photo by

Erik Nylander  

Bor Dameli Shokan, 13, is one of a handful Kazakh girls in western Mongolia that are practicing the traditionally male dominated art of hunting with golden eagles. 

When Bor was born as the second girl in the family with no older brothers, she got to do the men’s shores from an early age. Among the duties of taking care of the animals, she's always had a good hand and fascination in her father and grandfathers hunting eagles. 

Since the male tradition always have been taught from father to son, she never thought she could be a eagle hunter herself. But when a girl just two years older, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, became famous for participating and winning the biggest eagle hunting competition there is, Bor saw the opportunity to start hunting herself. Altai Mountains, Mongolia 2017/3/8


 

It's heavy work carrying around a 10kg golden eagle on your arm, whilst temperatures often drop down to -40 celsius in the barren landscape. Many men still think hunting is too hard for a woman, and claims that the women should take care of the home and kids instead - as is traditional in most Kazakh homes.  

Recently Bor got her first own eagle, and little by little she is now training to make it hunt on her command. It will take several years to create the perfect bond between the two. Fox and rabbits are the main prey, and even tho it easily could cause great damage to a human, Bor is not worried. 

"I know very well what it's capable of, but I'm never afraid of my eagle. We've made a very special bond of trust", Bor states. Altai Mountains, Mongolia 2017/3/6

Winter is the hunting season, when hunters often go in groups to chase their prey by horseback. When a prey is located the eagle is released to make their kill. 
In the earlier days, fox and marmots were hunted for their meat and warm fur to make clothes of. Now though, the Kazakh compete with their eagles to see who is the best eagle hunter, and it’s the strong and proud tradition that make their culture keep on doing it. Altai Mountains, Mongolia 2017/3/22

For the Kazakh dominated areas of western Mongolia, eagles are a holy animal. An eagle will be held with their owner for 7-10 years until being released, to live the other half of its life in the wild. 

The eagle is either being stolen from it’s nest before it can fly, or captured with a trap when it’s already grown up. 
Bor’s eagle have just been passed on to her from Bors grandfather Tabai Tabisbek, that just retired from hunting. Shokan family’s second winter house, in Dayan area, is six hours from the town of Ulgii. The neighbors are few, and with far distance apart. The solar panel charging a car battery to provide electricity for light bowls and one hour of watching Indian soap operas every day. Altai Mountains, Mongolia 2017/3/5

Bor’s family consists of her parents, three sisters, a brother and her grandfather. She goes to school in a village two hours away, where she stays with her relatives during the weekdays. Bor hope that her eagle hunting skills will make her famous one day, so she can travel the world just like her idol Aisholpan Nurgaiv. Aisholpan were just starring in a documentary about her being the first known female hunter, and are now a idol and national symbol through whole Mongolia. 

Next to Bors bed her eagle sleep during night, to keep it warm and away from predators outdoors. A hood keep the eagle blinded, to prevent it to try and fly away. Altai Mountains, Mongolia  2017/3/7

Bors father, Semser Shokan, was taught the art of eagle hunting by his father when he was 14 years old. Over the years he have had ten different eagles. So far Bor have been following him to hunt only a few times, to see and learn. But in a few months Semser expect his daughter to do her first hunt on her own. 

"Not all girls can be eagle hunters. You need to have the strength and a lot of passion to make it happen. Bor sure has both of that.", Semser say.  Altai Mountains, Mongolia 2017/3/9

The Shokan family's only room of the house is filled with wallpapers made out of western posters. Altai Mountains, Mongolia 2017/3/8

Out of the approx 250 remaining eagle hunters in western Mongolia, there is not stated how many of these that are women. Some say three, some say fifteen. What we do know is that they are very few.

"In 5-6 years I think I'll be a complete eagle hunter. But I don't know how long I can continue. What will happen if I get married or if I have to move away for studies? I don't know if I still could hunt. Only time will tell", Bor Dameli Shokan say.

 Altai Mountains, Mongolia  February 20, 2017