As the eagle flies…
This is Talgar and his 9-year-old Golden Eagle, Tumara.
Talgar is one of only about 50 remaining Eagle Men in Kyrgyzstan. Yes, you read correctly; the job title is actually Eagle Man. Talgar is an Eagle Man by trade, a tradition passed down in his family for generations. Years ago, a village’s Eagle Man was treated like a king. To be able to hunt with one’s eagle meant that one could potentially bring in enough game for an entire village.
Today, with the advent of grocery stores and meat markets, eagle men are less relevant. But yet, Talgar is humbled and honored to practice this age-old tradition of his forefathers and make a living for his family from the hunting and tourist attraction aspects of what he does.
At the age of 12, Talgar had been training alongside his father–also an Eagle Man–as one of only side children in the family who was interested in the trade. Some local sheepherders told him that there was a nest of eagles in the mountains nearby. He found the nest and watched it for three days to see the types of food the mother would bring to her young. After the mother brought a fox to the nest, Talgar knew the offspring would be strong, and it was time to capture one of the eagles for training. He brought the eagle home and trained her, rewarding her as she captured prey, showing the eagle its role.
What’s interesting is that eagles will only answer to one master in their entire lifetime. Also, it’s important to speak and act toward the eagle with respect and kindness, because if you make the eagle mad or feel as if she is not worthy, she will turn her back on her master and never listen to him again!
Talgar says that Tumara has given him a purpose in life. He is also proud that one of his sons is showing an interest in someday carrying on the family tradition of becoming an Eagle Man.
One of the benefits to meeting this interesting man is the opportunity to hold the eagle. As in many situations like this, Sean was quick to offer up the opportunity to me! I was nervous–even though Tumara only weighs six pounds, you can tell she is vicious when she wants to be. Nearby chickens in a chicken coop were squawking uncontrollably when the eagle’s face mask was off… Clearly she rules the household!