Meet Ashol-Pan. She is 13 years old, and she is an eagle huntress-in-training.
Photographer Asher Svidensky captured this stunning shot of Ashol-Pan during a 40-day trip to Mongolia late last year. Svidensky, who lives in Israel, told The Huffington Post over Skype Thursday that he had traveled to Mongolia to document the lives of Kazakh eagle hunters who live in the Altai mountain range. These hunters, reports the BBC, are the only people in the world who hunt with the magnificent golden eagle. According to Svidensky, the Kazakh falconers use eagles to hunt animals for fur and to protect their livestock and property from predators.
Svidensky, 24, said he had started out his trip photographing established eagle hunters in the region, but his plan soon took an unexpected turn after he met a 13-year-old boy who was training to be a falconer.
He writes on his website that he decided to document the "future generation" of eagle hunters -- the children who "hold the tradition's future in their bare hands."
"This is an interesting turning point in history and I wanted to photograph that," he told HuffPost. "[These kids will determine] what eagle hunting will be in the 21st century and the 22nd."
Svidensky ended up photographing four young boys and one inspiring young woman: Ashol-Pan, the daughter of a celebrated hunter.
"It was amazing to see her with the eagle," Svidensky told the HuffPost of watching Ashol-Pan at work. "I actually felt she was a lot more comfortable with the eagle [than some of the other trainees]. She was a lot more at ease with it. It takes a lot of courage and power to hunt the way she does. It's a big scary bird, you know. This is not a Disney character. This is a killer."
According to the BBC, Ashol-Pan may be the country's only apprentice eagle huntress. Eagle hunting is a Kazakh tradition that dates back some 2,000 years, National Geographic notes, and Svidensky said he has heard of no other female falconer in the country. He's excited, he said, to see if Ashol-Pan becomes what could be Mongolia's first full-fledged eagle huntress.
Svidensky's photographs of Ashol-Pan and the other children have gone viral this month after being shared online by the BBC and other news outlets. "I've received hundreds of emails. I'm completely shocked," said Svidensky of the reception his photos have received.