Elephant crushing is luring wild elephants into an enclosure and taming them by crushing their souls. This method came from Indian ethnics and is called ‘kheda’, also known as ‘keddah’. It used over 30 men to catch the elephants, so it required the most men among elephant catching methods.
Location for enclosure
The hunters normally start in early October to trap the elephants. They have to find a place where elephants usually stay. After finding elephants, they try to find a good place to trap. That place is usually the elephant herd’s path, a place with a good shape where the herd can rest, bank of a stream or lakeside. The place has to be easily reachable. It must not be a slope, not a plain, and has a wide area for training elephants once they’re caught. It has to be near plenty of trees for enclosure construction. The place must also offer plenty of accessible food for wild elephants.
Building the enclosure
The forest provides the timbers needed for building the enclosure. The enclosure is wide on one side and narrow on the other. It measures from 60 to 100 square feet. It needs 4 straight posts, with a length of 35 feet, for the enclosure door. 30 posts with a length of 16 feet and 300 poles with a length over 16 feet for the main enclosure.
Posts and poles use straight wood logs. A sword or an axe smooths any branches or knobs on the logs. The enclosure construction uses about 200 visses of coconut fibre rope or about 5000 red cane plant rope.
Posts and poles are tightened with ropes instead of nails to not injure wild elephants when they to escape using brute force.
The enclosure has a doorpost on the wider front side. The posts completely shut the narrower back side. A big, strong tree back that side of the enclosure from falling when the elephants bashed the wall.
4 gate posts at the front side are placed as 2 on the front, 2 on the back, and the gate is placed in the middle. The gate is built strongly, with adult calf size poles, like a wall. To penetrate well into the ground when the gate fell from above, they sharpened the bottom of the gates.
The gate is flexible and is hung 30 feet above the ground by using 4 gate posts with the help of a tame elephant. A 6-inch-diameter jute rope held the gate in the air. That rope circles the trigger cord, crossing the gate post 3 to 5 times, and goes over the enclosure and tie to the backing tree at the back. A small lookout is at the top of the over-30-feet gate for a gatekeeper.
A small, 45° tilted ladder is beside the enclosure for the gatekeeper to get to the lookout. Below the lookout is the 30 feet long bamboo rod. On the lookout is a hollowed bamboo, or a gong used for alarm.
The gate is connected with 1,200 to 1,800 feet funnel-shaped fence poles that go 60° wider to the outside. These poles don’t need to be strong like enclosure walls, they are just barriers to direct elephants to the cage. Branches and leaves covered all of those to prevent the elephants from noticing.
2 or 3 lookouts are built on each side of the trees along the fence. These lookouts are 300 feet apart from each other. Dried leaves and branches are piled together 24 feet apart across the funnel.
The kerosene filled bamboo joint is readied beside a tree near the leaves pile. A big hay rope or young soft barks sealed the top of the bamboo joint.
When the wild elephants reached the funnel-shaped area, the guard had to set the fire quickly to the leaves pile with kerosene to barricade the elephants with fire.
The enclosure usually has 2 fire barriers. The first one has around 10 tiny leave piles and the second one has 7-8 piles due to the narrower area. Depending on the size of the enclosure, the amount of the piles will change.
Size of the enclosure
The length of the enclosure is usually 40 to 60 feet. The front gate of the enclosure is 12 feet wide, the back gate is 6 feet wide and 12 feet high.
There is a small door at the side of the enclosure to take the elephant out once they’re captured. That door is shut securely by fastening it to the wall. They open the door only when there are elephants to take out.
5 to 10 tri-pole traps called swings are placed near the main enclosure at the side of the side door. Swings are triangular and its corners are firmly erected. Using trees as poles is better if possible. The height of the swing is just a bit over the height of the elephant. So they could place the captured elephants tightly in the swing, according to their size, to instil fear of humans. Later, they could be trained and tamed.
( Excerpt from Phoe Kyawt – The search for elephants’ graveyard and other short stories ) by Moe Htet Myint
Translated by 마살라몬스터
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