Historical Account - Page 2


In Sri Lanka, for well over 3,000 years, elephants have been captured in large numbers, tamed and trained. Thailand is another country, which had, at the turn of the century, nearly 1,00,000 captive elephants, now reduced to about 3000 (Lair 1997). Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, who was passionately fond of capturing wild elephants, had nearly 10,000 captive elephants. The landed aristocracy, in various parts of Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar and Thailand, owned elephants as a matter of status and many resorted to capturing elephants from the wild for replenishing their herds. In India, these wealthy landlords had always been great patrons of professional elephant dealers, whose activities centred round the trade centres or melas across India. From time immemorial, the melas or fairs saw the exhibition of large numbers of elephants, which were captured from the jungles of Assam and North Bengal. Apart from their use in wars, the main demand for elephants has been for religious processions and marriage ceremonies. Many temples in southern India still keep elephants. In Kerala, southern India, many private owners keep elephants as an economic proposition for hiring during religious festivals. Most of the privately owned elephants in northeastern India were kept for logging operations. In southern India, both private as well as government owned elephants are used in logging operations. Of late, machineries gradually replaced this work. Captive elephants owned by the state forest departments are now used for patrol, transport and field inspection. They were also used for shikar in the past and even mentioned as ‘mobile platforms’ for shooting.