This is Makpal Abdrazakova, she is 25, and she lives in Aksu-Ayuly, central Kazakhstan. She cuts an awesome figure, doesn’t she? She is making headlines for something she’s been doing since she was 13. Makpal is a golden eagle hunter, a berkutchi, and participates in competitions that evaluate how well her eagle, 10-year-old Akzhelke, can catch and kill prey. She has won several of the local contests, which also demonstrate the bond between the bird and its master.
The bond in her case began with feeding the golden eagle when her father Murat was away. He taught her the ancient sport after getting the approval and blessing of the local elders, since it has traditionally been practiced only by men. Since 2003, they and the professional hunters have welcomed her, and she remains the only woman in Kazakhstan to compete.
She does not, however, want to be the last: “I hope that in the future there will be more berkutchi-girls,” she says in her native language (see video here). Golden eagles have been used in falconry for centuries (see slideshow here) and are among the world’s fiercest birds, with the ability to fly at their prey at 190mph with their razor-sharp talons. They weigh up to 15lbs, grow up to 3’ tall, and have a wingspan of up to 7’.