Tough as boys can be, 13-year-old Ashol-Pan has them out-nerved. Perching on mountain peaks, she is alone among even the small cadre of apprentices learning to hunt foxes and hares with a golden eagle that weighs nearly as much as she does.
"To see her with the eagle was amazing," said photographer Asher Svidensky in an interview with BBC World Service after profiling Ashol-Pan and several boys who were also learning the trade. “She was a lot more comfortable with it, a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it."
Western Mongola in the Altai Mountains is where the Kazakhs call home, and only 400 of them are falconers who practice today, BBC News said. The birds are let loose once the quarry has been flushed from its hideaway. Until then, they ride on the arms of their little masters.
Svidensky took phenomenal photos of Ashol-Pan and shared them with BBC World Service, elaborating in an interview.
The sweet, shy girl is perfectly at home in what for 2,000 years has been considered solely the purview of men. Her presence among the hunters makes a huge statement about 21st-century Mongolia and where it is headed, Svidensky told the network.
"The generation that will decide what will happen with every tradition that Mongolia contains is this generation," said Svidensky. "Everything there is going to change and is going to be redefined—and the possibilities are amazing."
The same could be said about the photos, which can be seen at A 13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress in Mongolia. Hear more about Svidensky’s impressions in his interview, The Girl Becoming an Eagle Hunter in Mongolia, on BBC World Update.