Journey to Meet the Eagle Hunters of the Eastern Mongolian Steppes

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Being a plant hunter might not sound like the most thrilling job in the world; after all, what plant could be so dangerous that you have to hunt it? However, in the 19th Century, plant hunters were an exceptional bunch – botanists who were not only scientifically clued-up but behaved like real Indiana Jones types, forever setting off to far-flung corners of the globe in search of rare finds. In the latest book by author Sanjida O’Connell, a plant hunter is even described adventuring as far as the Eastern Steppes of Mongolia and having some pretty special encounters.

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To research her novel, titled The Naked Name of Love, Sanjida O’Connell travelled on horseback across what remains one of the remotest countries on earth and saw for herself its legendary blue skies and limitless horizons. There she met up with a Mongolian tribe who still hunt with Golden Eagles, just as the hero of her story does when he makes his journey.

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The tradition of training and hunting with these great birds of prey – which can weigh up to 6.5 kilograms and have wingspans of over seven feet – stretches back hundreds if not thousands of years in Central Asia.

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Speaking of her trip to Mongolia, Sanjida O’Connell says: “It’s a real country of contrasts now – herders and yurts alongside modern buildings and Russian-influenced architecture… The people I met were very kind, really hospitable. But those darn small horses – it hurt to sit down for a year afterwards.”

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In addition to being a novelist, Sanjida O’Connell is a features writer for various UK national newspapers, as well as a BBC TV presenter and documentary producer. The Naked Name of Love was published in March by John Murray, and you can see its author talking about the creative process and background behind the book here:

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