Chained to a post in an open field, this wild wolf can never have felt more vulnerable. He is used to being the hunter, never the prey.
But now all he can do is wait until the eagle swoops back in for the kill, its razor-sharp talons glistening in the sun. The helpless animal leaps from side to side, snapping at the giant bird in a vain bid to scare it off.
But this eagle is a well-honed killing machine, trained to slay its prey by the nomadic eagle hunters of Kyrgyzstan. It is the climax of Kyrgyzstan’s ancient hunting festival ‘Salburun’, in the village of Tyup some 370km from Bishkek.
The two-day festival draws the regions best hunting dogs, eagle and falcon hunters from all over the nation. The program of the festival includes falconry, hunting with eagles, archery, and ambler races.
But this is the final event of the festival and draws the biggest crowds. It is a gruesome battle to the death that almost invariably ends in the eagle’s favour. Wolves are considered a manace in rural Kyrgyzstan, responsible for killing horses, sheep and cows.