Sustaining the Kazakh Eagle Population

Images from left to right: Bagjanar, Meruert & Erchebulat, Kazakh | Sagsai, Bayan-Ӧlgii province | Mongolia, 2017

      The Kazakh


      Altantsogts, Bayan-Ӧlgii province | Mongolia

  • WHAT

      Supporting the Kazakh Eagle Association

Dalaikhan and Jimmy Nelson in conversation about the importance of education and the sustaining the rich tradition of falconry
Dalaikhan, Kazakh | Altai, Bayan-Ӧlgii province | Mongolia, 2017

Sustaining the rich tradition of falconry

The art of falconry is a UNESCO-declared intangible heritage that transcends mere hunting. It is a profound connection between humans and majestic birds of prey


This cherished tradition is facing a perilous decline, overshadowed by modern hunting techniques and the unintended consequences of tourism-driven imbalances in the ecosystem. Instead of being a sustainable tradition deeply rooted in the Kazakh culture, many now keep eagles solely for entertainment purposes, showcasing them in spectacles and races during the tourism season.

The shift has led to a concerning rise in the capture of eagles from the wild, while their return to nature diminishes.

Returned to nature

For the Kazakh, being an eagle hunter is ingrained in their blood, passed down through generations. The sought-after female eagles, known for their aggression and strength, are carefully chosen from nests at just the right age to ensure proper training. After seven years of devoted service, the golden eagle is returned to nature, completing the sacred circle of life. The challenge lies in striking a harmonious balance between tradition, sustainability, and the evolving landscape of modern practices, ensuring that the legacy of falconry endures for generations to come.

Kazakh | Altantsogts, Bayan Ölgii | Mongolia, 2011
Jan, Kazakh | Altantsogts, Bayan-Ӧlgii province | Mongolia, 2017

Sustaining the rich tradition of falconry

The majestic Golden Eagle and the rich tradition of falconry, are now at its pinnacle of importance.

Maintaining a sustainable population of golden eagles is not only essential for preserving the delicate balance of the ecosystem but also for safeguarding the age-old heritage of falconry among the Kazakh people in Western Mongolia and beyond. Therefore the Jimmy Nelson Foundation is supporting the Kazakh Eagle Association, which through comprehensive efforts such as documenting the falconry heritage and meticulously registering the number of falconers and eagles. They aim to establish the current state of affairs in the region. Focused on ensuring the continuation of ancient skills and maintaining a balanced eagle population, their initiative involves deploying an eagle monitoring system. Additionally, they are committed to fostering a network among Kazakh falconers for seamless information and knowledge exchange.

This ambitious five-year project is not limited to the Kazakh community alone; it aspires to inspire falconers globally. By uniting practitioners from all corners of the world, they strive to perpetuate this beautiful ancient lifestyle for future generations to practice and cherish.

Where there’s a bird, there’s a good will. - Kazakh proverb
Dalaikhan & Alimaa, Kazakh | Altai mountains, Bayan-Ӧlgii province | Mongolia, 2017

The Kazakh Eagle Association

Nomadic Expeditions, in partnership with the Wildlife Science & Conservation Centre of Mongolia and the Mongolian Golden Eagle Association, has presented a project proposal to establish the Kazakh Eagle Association. Formed in 2021, this local organization is entrusted with the vital task of overseeing and promoting the sustainable use of the eagle population within the region. The association’s mandate involves documenting the rich heritage of falconry, including the registration of falconers and eagles, to comprehensively understand the current scenario in the area.

To ensure the perpetuation of ancient skills and maintain a balanced eagle population, the initiative will implement an eagle monitoring system. Additionally, a network will be established among Kazakh falconers, fostering information and knowledge exchange. This collaborative effort aims to not only preserve the cultural legacy of falconry but also contribute to the long-term sustainability of the eagle population in the region.