HOPE TO PRE­SERVE A DY­ING ART

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG -

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abuse, but I treat each and ev­ery ea­gle like fam­ily. I think of them more of­ten than I think of my grand­sons,” he said.

Haymu has had seven ea­gles over the years. The one he is cur­rently train­ing is only a year old.

“I feed him well in the sum­mer, to help him grow. When it’s cold, how­ever, he needs to be more ac­tive and train, so he can learn to fol­low my in­struc­tions,” Haymu said, adding that Jan­uary is the best time to train ea­gles.

The ea­gle, which lives in his owner’s yard, is fed on lamb meat and liv­ers.

When the sun rises high, Haymu dons his fox fur hat, sheep­skin coat, and felt boots — the tra­di­tional at­tire of a fal­coner.

He trains the young ea­gle in front of his home. If it lands steadily on his right arm, it is re­warded with fresh meat.

Haymu also trains the bird to fol­low a mov­ing tar­get. An as­sis­tant on horse­back drags a fox hide through the snow, and the ea­gle sets off to find its tar­get.

It only suc­ceeded in do­ing this four times in two hours, but Haymu was not dis­cour­aged. “A young ea­gle takes time to learn,” he said.

Haymu has to be tough if the bird mis­be­haves, but he said he has never harmed it. “It pecked me once. It was

wear­ing a hood and I was mim­ick­ing the sound of a hare. It flew down and jammed its beak into my palm,” he said.

The birds are usu­ally kept for around four years be­fore they are re­leased back into the wild so that they can mate.

Haymu does not de­pend on fal­conry for a liv­ing, but he wants to see the tra­di­tion live on.

In Qinghe, there are 40 ea­gle-hunters and 40 ea­gles, said Tuokun, head of the fal­con­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

The aver­age age of fal­con­ers is over 50, and both Haymu and Tuokun worry that they might be the last gen­er­a­tion that keeps the art alive.

“I have two sons, a driver and a busi­ness­man. Nei­ther wants to learn. I am wor­ried that when I die, fal­conry might die with me,” said Tuokun, 60.

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