Tariq Zaidi a photographer has travelled to the isolated Altai Mountains in Gobi Desert, to capture a spectacular set of pictures displaying the 4,000-year-old art of eagle hunting. So far, only 70 Kyrgyz and Kazakh eagle hunters remain in the world. This rare ancient tradition can be traced back more than four millennia in Central Asia, but is start to die out nowadays. Although they’re enough capable of killing young wolves, but eagles hunt mostly foxes and other small animals. In January 2014, he decided to quit a senior corporate job, to follow his vision of becoming one of the world’s most respected fine art travel portrait photographers with the aim of capturing the dignity, purity and soul of people, within their environment. More than 90 of Tariq's pictures have already won numerous major international photography awards.
He travelled the world to photograph some of the most remote areas and their cultures. He expresses his experience, that disbelief and amazement is just two words I would use to define the Kazakh eagle hunters. As far as Kazakhs living in Western Mongolia, hunting with eagles is an honored art and one of the highest expressions of their cultural heritage. I thought, it has been one of most attractive and primal connections between man and animal. For these remaining few, it is not simply an important tradition or an astonishing sport - it is their reason to live. The hard training of eagles starts when they’re just chicks and continues every day for three to four years. Each eagle can only have one handler their master who can never fully control the bird they can only nurture a bond between man and animal, teaching it how to hunt more efficiently. Although the benefits of eagle hunting have decreased in the ever-modernizing world, the Kazakhs living in Western Mongolia have preserved the tradition, due to their physical isolation. The hunters could, if they desire, hunt with rifles but they opt to use eagles in its place, as it is seen as the highest form of art and dedication. For some, their entire worlds revolve around eagle hunting - riding out in bitter winds and harsh conditions to help ensure the bird captures its prey. In 2010, an area in Western Mongolia where eagle hunting is still prevalent was listed as a UNESCO site of intangible cultural heritage, serving to protect the eagle hunters.
Eagle hunting overwhelms their lives completely and is what makes their hearts beat and eagles having a life expectancy of up to 40 years they basically become a member of the family. If an eagle hunter has died, you’ll still find him hunting in the mountains, and not at the funeral, as nothing keeps an eagle hunter at home. They live together in this life, and, according to the hunter's tradition, after death master and eagle will meet again. You can find Tariq's other works at his website www.tariqzaidi.com