After founding a festival to preserve the ancient Mongolian tradition of hunting with eagles, Nomadic Expeditions has partnered with a conservation centre to protect the birds of prey. Madeleine Barber speaks to the tour operator’s president to find out more.
With a fearsome black-and-yellow beak and a wingspan that stretches for more than two metres, the golden eagle is a formidable bird of prey. In the UK the species is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but in Mongolia, where the Kazakh tradition of hunting with golden eagles goes back 6,000 years, little is known about its population.
In order to change this, Buddhist destination-specialist Nomadic Expeditions has teamed up with the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia to fund a research project focused on supporting golden eagle conservation and cultural heritage preservation in the country.
Nomadic Expeditions’ roots with the golden eagles run deep, with the operator founding the Golden Eagle Festival in 1999 and aiming to preserve the ancient Kazakh tradition ever since. The event takes place on the first weekend of October every year and had remained relatively under the tourism radar until five years ago when a few high-profile photographers caught on to the spectacle and opened the world’s eyes to the magnificence of the Kazakh people, their strong steeds and their birds of prey.
“[Last year] just under 2,000 foreigners came to the Golden Eagle Festival, so we thought this was the critical moment to start measuring what’s happening with the population of the golden eagles – we don’t want to hurt the wild population,” says Undraa Buyannemekh, president of Nomadic Expeditions.