Deep within the wild, mountainous regions of Mongolia, a small group of nomads keeps the ancient art of eagle hunting alive. The traditional form of falconry involves training birds of prey to help hunt wild animals such as foxes and small hares—a powerful skill that has been handed down from father to son over thousands of years. German photographer Leo Thomas recently visited Western Mongolia’s Altai region to capture this fascinating culture.
There are approximately 300 remaining eagle keepers today, and the vast majority of them are male. However, while on his trip visiting the remote Altai region, Thomas had the opportunity to meet Zamanbol, 1 of just 10 eagle huntresses in Mongolia. She’s part of a Kazakh nomad family, and spends most of her days going to school in the city. On the weekend, she trains with her trusted eagle alongside her brother, Barzabai. Thomas' images capture Zamanbol on horseback and dressed in handmade fur clothing, emitting her free-spirited strength and unbreakable bond with her eagle.
Thomas says of Barzabai (Zamanbol's 26-year-old brother who happens to be the same age as Thomas): “While he’s living in the outdoors surrounded by family, incredible nature and animals, I’m sitting more than 60% of my time in front of a screen,” says the photographer. “A pretty basic comparison, but it made me think.” Thomas’ stunning photographs capture the beauty this mysterious, historical culture—one that’s far from that of the western world.
Scroll down to check out some of Thomas' snapshots from Mongolia, and find more from his impressive portfolio on Instagram.