All set for the hunt

Mr Aytbek Sulaymanbekov is a berkutchy.

That is what they call a traditional eagle hunter in Kyrgyzstan, and he is a dying breed.

Mr Aytbek, who can been seen regularly training his golden eagle in the village of Bokonbaevo, Issyk-Kul, about 270km from Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, is a fourth-generation berkutchy.

The eagles are trained to hunt animals like rabbits and foxes, but the best eagles can even bring down wolves.

Mr Aytbek learnt to hunt with birds from the age of 10. Now, he has a golden eagle and a young peregrine falcon.

Eagle and falcon hunting is an old Kyrgyz tradition. With their birds, the berkutchy hunt in the mountains and participate in the hunting festival called "Salburun".

Hunting with big birds of prey is a skill handed down from generation to generation in the rural areas.

It dates back to the time when hunting was the only means of survival in the Kyrgyz steppe.

The organisers of the Salburun Festival has revived the tradition in the form of a competition to preserve local culture.

Hunting has traditionally been an integral part of the nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz people.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'All set for the hunt'. Print Edition | Subscribe