ASTANA – World-renowned eagle huntress Aisholpan Nurgaiypkyzy from Mongolia recently moved to Kazakhstan, her historical homeland. She achieved global recognition following the release of “Berkutchi (Eagle Huntress)” documentary in 2016. In acknowledgment of her bravery and indomitable spirit, Nurgaiypkyzy received accolades in New York, Mongolia’s highest honor, and the Asia Game Changer Award in 2017 for breaking gender barriers.
In an interview with the Kazinform news agency, Nurgaiypkyzy detailed her relocation to Kazakhstan, the art of eagle hunting, and her plans.
Could you share which region your parents chose in the country?
I have always dreamt of returning to my historical homeland with my family, which has finally come true. Having explored all regions, Eastern Kazakhstan stood out to us. The beautiful nature and convenience of eagle training led us to settle here. Having my parents, brothers, and sisters close by is heartening.
How were you received in the East Kazakhstan Region?
We met with Yermek Kosherbayev, the akim (governor) of the region, to discuss tourism development and promote eagle hunting. The region’s support encouraged us to plan the establishment of the Eagle Hunter’s Union, aiming to teach this traditional skill to guests. Eagle hunting is a noble heritage passed down to us from our ancestors. Therefore, we must continue this art left by our forefathers in the Kazakh steppe. Our goal is to introduce tourists to Kazakh history and culture.
Please share about your eagle breeding journey.
Eagle hunting traditions have been a part of my family for generations. Caring for my brother’s eagle since age eight, I encountered and overcame numerous challenges. An eagle, a formidable predatory bird, posed difficulties when riding with it on one arm in winter at temperatures ranging from 40 to 50 degrees below Celsius. Despite these hardships, I persevered. At just 13 years old, I achieved first place in an eagle hunting competition, where I stood as the sole female among 79 men, setting a record for bird landing.
You chose Kazakhstan over Harvard and Oxford. Where are you studying?
I received invitations from foreign institutions but opted to study in Kazakhstan. I am studying Kazakh Language and Literature at Suleyman Demirel University in Almaty. I am passionate about literature and linguistics and fluent in Kazakh, Turkish, English, and Mongolian languages.
Have you become more recognized after the “Berkutchi” documentary? How did it impact your life?
Based on my father’s upbringing and Kazakh traditions, the film showcased our everyday life. The shooting was exciting and challenging. Following the script, we undertook the task of retrieving an eaglet from its nest. My father secured two ropes around my waist and lowered me down an 18-meter slope into the eagle’s nest. Eagles construct their nests at great heights to safeguard their offspring, making the endeavor scary and daunting. But I successfully retrieved the eaglet.
How has your life changed after the film?
Increased recognition brought joy and inspiration as people recognized me more frequently. Fame allowed me to travel and pursue education, motivating my return to my homeland. While the film reached audiences in 30 countries worldwide, it has yet to be screened in Kazakhstan. I aspire to share it with my compatriots.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to develop eagle hunting in Kazakhstan, open a school for Kazakh traditions, and pursue a master’s degree in my field of expertise.
The article was originally published in Kazinform.