Protecting Golden Eagles: A Progress Update
We at Nomadic Expeditions are pleased to update our community of individuals invested in raptor conservation and sustainable travel on the progress of our Golden Eagle Conservation Project in partnership with the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia (WSCC) which studies the golden eagle population in western Mongolia and contributes important data to the Global Raptor Impact Network operated by The Peregrine Fund, the world’s foremost global raptor conservation organization.
The research initiative funded by Nomadic Expeditions had begun providing the latest data, analytics, and advice on conservation outcomes. The project also incorporates a conscientious review of the cultural traditions of golden eagle hunting, engaging the Kazakh people of western Mongolia in the process of supporting the welfare of these birds who for a millennium have been a part of winter hunting and cultural tradition.
These invaluable allies in preserving golden eagles have formed a new organization aligned with monitoring falconry and aligning with golden eagle conservation efforts so that both the birds and their ancient heritage have a long and sustainable future.
Valuable Golden Eagle Data Collected
In June of 2021, Buyandelger, the Conservation Manager of Nomadic Expeditions, along with 2 researchers— Khurelsukh and Jugdernamjil from WSCC—travelled to Bayan-Ulgii province to locate aeries of wild golden eagles and conduct monitoring. Over two months, the researchers registered the GPS coordinates of 21 active aeries and collected blood and feather samples from 15 eaglets.
Golden eagles build their aeries on high cliffs or tall trees. And depending on the location, the researchers needed help to reach the aeries—to collect chest feathers and to take blood samples from underneath the birds’ wings. And so they performed these functions with the support of local falconers, whose experience around the birds and climbing to reach the nests is knowledge passed down through the generations.
First Forum of Eagle Hunters
In October of 2021, a joint team of WSCC and Nomadic Expeditions headed to Bayan-Ulgii province to host the First Forum of Eagle Hunters with support of Environment and Tourism agency of Bayan-Ulgii province.
Approximately 120 eagle hunters from nine counties participated in the forum, where both Nomadic Expeditions and the WSCC officially introduced the goals of the multi-year Golden Eagle Conservation Project and what they hope to accomplish.
Researchers, Tseveenmyadag Ph.d and Khurelsukh from WSCC presented recent results from the monitoring of aeries, along with GPS tracking data collected from golden eagles previously studied who were released into the wilderness in 2018.
Accordance to GPS tracking data, the golden eagles in Mongolia are partially migratory birds, as some of the western Mongolian golden eagles tend to migrate within Bayan- Ulgii province.
The Founding of the Kazakh Falconry Association
On October 21, 2021, the Kazakh Falconry Association was founded by the Environment and Tourism Agency in Bayan-Ulgii province, WSCC and Nomadic Expeditions.
Thirteen individuals were chosen to be board members of the KFA, including Atai Ph.d, director of the Golden Eagle Society; Marat, head of Environment And Tourism Agency in Bayan-Ulgii province; Ayashgul, head of the local museum; Tseveenmyadag, board member of Golden Eagle Society and the leading ornithologist in Mongolia; Kanat, director of Blue Wolf Travel; Bekbolat, director of Altai Expeditions; Nyambayar, Director of WSCC; Nurgulan, head of Food and Agriculture agency in Bayan-Ulgii province; Rom, director of Association of Kazakh National Games and sport; Umerbek, head of Mongolian-Altai petroglyphs conservation and protection agency; Buyandelger, conservation manager of Nomadic Expeditions; and Otgonsaikhan, president of the Asian Falconry Association.
The board members determined KFA’s main goals to be to protect golden eagles, the millennium-old tradition of Kazakh falconry, and to create awareness of the tradition among Mongolian youths.
To fulfill these goals, they established a mission of 14 objectives.
- To participate within the boundaries of government policies on falconry, policy implementation, and to help draft legislation
- To unite and support all participants whose goals align with sustainable falconry
- To operate strategic policies to conserve Kazakh falconry
- To create a database of falconers and their eagles
- To engage in the support of nomadic culture and heritage, and falconry-based sustainable tourism
- To have a designated hall for Kazakh falconry at provincial museum and soums in Bayan-Ulgii and the National Museum of Mongolia
- To implement strategic management policy on population monitoring of golden eagle and prey animals
- To arrange Falconry training for youth
- To improve the living environment and wellbeing up to modern standards for golden eagles in captivity
- To promote Kazakh falconry
- To promote Kazakh falconry at an international level
- To actively participate in solving the ongoing issues of falconers
- To send falconers to international seminars and trainings on falconry
- To organize international and domestic forums, symposiums and other official meetings to protect and conserve Kazakh falconry
After the successful first forum of eagle hunters, most of the falconers were informed that the banding—fitting an ankle of each falconry bird with an identifying tag—will take place during the Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Ulgii province. Originally the Golden Eagle festival takes place at first weekend of October, but due to COVID-19 it was postponed until December 4.
Teams of Nomadic Expeditions and WSCC travelled to Bayan-Ulgii to conduct the survey, banding the eagles and participating in the first board meeting of the KFA.
At the festival, according to official registration, 140 falconers registered, 116 eagles received bands, and all were registered by the WSCC. Each eagle hunter had their photos taken with their eagle, and surveys were filled out to gather further data about the falconer, bird, and their practice.
The board of the KFA has set out their unique mission in 5 core objectives.
- To create an archive of eagle hunters to determine the exact number of eagle hunters in Bayan-Ulgii province and to have database of the great hunters who has been passed away
- To publish a biographical book of eagle hunters to have guidance on the falconry tradition and to create educational material for children in the primary schools of Bayan-Ulgii province
- To recruit experienced elder eagle hunters to educate and train young up-and-coming eagle hunters in order to sustain the traditional ways of falconry in Mongolia
- To create an eagle hunters committee in each county and extend the KFA board members—increasing involvement of eagle hunters in the protection and conservation of golden eagles both in the wild and in captivity
- To make international connection with other NGOs working on falconry protection and the conservation of birds of prey