A Day After The Rogue Indian Elephant

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Kawshik Rahman, Oct 4, 2019.

  1. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Based on the enthusiasm and support my fellow forum members have shown for my accounts of my days as a professional Indian Shikari , l have decided to provide my fellow forum members with an account that may interest quite a few gentlemen here .
    This is an account of going after the Indian rogue Elephant. I would like to dedicate this article to my late friend , Mohiyuddin who was a forest department officer in Darjeeling India from 1963 up to 1970 and who was assigned to shoot rogue elephants. Today , he is the protagonist of this story while l am a mere spectator .
    Let us begin . The account shall unfold in three following sections.
    Screenshot_20191004-183604_02_01_01.png
    Mohiyuddin with rogue Indian elephant which he has shot with his issued .303 bore Lee Enfield type rifle made by Birmingham Small Arms, 1963
     

  2. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    I would first like to give a little back ground about shooting elephants in India. Since 1875 ( or 1873 , according to some sources ) , shooting elephants had been prohibited in in India . This was approximately eighteen years after the Indian mutiny in 1857 and while India was still a British colony. Why this foolish ban was placed , is beyond me. However , according to my late father , the reason is as follows :
    The Hindus worship an entity called Ganesha whom they treated as a God . This entity is an elephant.
    Screenshot_20191004-220714_01.png
    A picture of the Hindu elephant God which l have collected from the internet.





    The Hindus were incredibly aggressive against anyone who shot elephants for this reason . In order to keep the people from getting too aggressive , the British government gave the order that no more elephants were to be shot.
    Given how one would have difficulty finding an animal which these people do not worship , l certainly think that my father is accurate in his assessment.
    The one exception to the ban was the rogue elephant. These were legally permitted to be shot . However , the Hindu Shikaris did not partake in this activity . It was the Muslim and Christian Shikaris who would invariably partake in this task .
    However , if history has proven anything , it is that bans never work and only worsen the affair . The Garo people whom Karim and l used to use for tracking , were blessed by Divine Providence with another skill : the skill of poaching elephants. The weapons that the Garo poachers would use for this task were quite unprepossessing looking weapons. They were crude , locally made smoothbore matchlock guns with barrels up to five feet in length called Jinjalls . They would use round , spherical moulded lead bullets with a weight of between two and three ounces. Never did l see any more primitive looking fire arms. Yet , they certainly did the work on these Indian elephants. These two to three ounce round lead bullets were backed by very large quantities of cheap , locally made coarse Indian black gun powder. At short distances , when fired at the head of the elephant from the side , they would drop an elephant dead by having the bullet reach it's brain. When fired at the lungs of an elephant from the side and if two lungs were pierced , the elephant would run a short distance before falling dead.
    However , if fired at the head of an elephant from the front , these round lead moulded bullets would not penetrate into the brain. The reason for this is simple. If anyone has ever cut open an elephant and seen it's skull , they will see that the front part of an elephant skull is far thicker than the side part of the elephant skull. The bone in this area is odd. It is shaped like the honey comb of the hive of a bee. I have helped cut numerous elephant corpses open and have personally been present when three elephants were shot , but as l have never shot one of these large creatures myself , l cannot profess to be an expert on this creature. I can only write my observations as a spectator of them being shot and some one who has helped to cut them open. The brain of the elephant is a little smaller than a foot ball and is found at the back of the skull where the spinal column begins. From personal experience , l have made one observation . If a Gaur has a fore leg broken by a bullet , it can escape. However , an elephant who has a fore leg broken by a bullet will not be able to move , on account of it's massive weight.
    The Indian elephant weighs anywhere between five and six tons.
    The Garo poachers would take advantage of this and devised a highly effective , yet extremely cruel and inhumane way to kill elephants , which l will describe below :
    They would form groups of four .At close distances , they would fire their Jinjalls at the legs of the elephants. The elephants would stay still after that. If they would try to move , then their leg bones would break and therefore these large creatures would become very helpless either way , as the Garo poachers would then easily finish them off with shots to the lungs or the side of the head. I have actually witnessed this practice first hand and even though l am desensitized to plenty of things , l found the scene a little sickening. I believe in giving a quick death to your quarry.
    Nevertheless, both Karim and l always looked the other direction when the Garo poachers partook in such activities. It was crucial that we maintain good relationship with them , due to how dependant we were upon their kind , for tracking . Also , poaching was not as rancid as it would become after 1972 . In the time of which l speak , these poachers would kill maybe two elephants in an entire year. As they did it to feed their families by selling the ivory , Karim and l looked the other direction , even though we directly never partook in the poaching. If we were discovered doing such a thing , we would lose our Shikari's license from the Nilgiri Wildlife Association , without any doubt.

    By contrast however , my good friend , Mohiyuddin was an absolute artist in Killing the Indian Elephant. He would use a .303 bore Lee Enfield type rifle made from the firm , Birmingham Small Arms which held ten cartridges in the removable magazine . This weapon was issued to him from the armoury of the Darjeeling forest department . It originally belonged to a British gentleman who owned a tea garden in the colonial era and left the gun behind when he returned to England upon India's independence in 1947. With this weapon , he would use old pattern British military ammunition which had round blunt nose metal envelope bullets weighing little above 200 grains. They were very old , made prior to the first world war. Nevertheless, very few cartridges ever missed fire. I cannot say how many rogue elephants Mohiyuddin shot in total , however l do know that he shot six rogue elephants in Darjeeling.
    In my next portion , l will relate an incident when l accompanied Mohiyuddin to dispatch a rogue elephant.
     

  3. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    It was 1966 . Shikar season was closed for three months of the year. Thus , l was pursuing my other interests , like spending time with Antora , helping my mother in her garden and watching my father’s grocer’s shop. While , l certainly enjoyed helping my loved ones and spending time with them , my heart belonged in the jungles with a gun in my hand and l longed for adventure .
    There was news that a rogue bull elephant was causing trouble near Shiliguri and it had already killed five people and caused an extensive amount of damage to crops and property. Contrary to what animal lovers will tell you , the elephant is not the gentle creature portrayed by Walt Disney. It is extremely dangerous.
    We used to exchange letters back in those days and l had once casually mentioned to Mohiyuddin that l was reeking of boredom. Mohiyuddin wrote back to me asking if l would like to accompany him on killing a rogue bull elephant. How could l refuse ? What good friends l had . If l tell them that l am bored , they offer me to join them on an elephant Shikar. I was extremely excited and thus preparations were made.
    In a few weeks , we were out again , with our redoubtable Garo trackers. I had with me my Ishapore 12 bore shot-gun loaded with SG in both the barrels. I also took a spare two dozen cartridges with me , along with twenty cartridges of number 6 shot for wild pigeons , for which there no seasonal limitations set by the Nilgiri Wildlife Association . Mohiyuddin had with him his issues .303 bore rifle . I would like to add a small detail. As he did not have any extra magazines for his .303 bore rifle , Mohiyuddin used two strips of green tape to attach five spare cartridges to either side of the stock of his rifle. Our Garo trackers had located tracks of the elephant and seen a few crushed pudina trees on the ground to decipher that the elephant had been through this area. The Garo trackers were on the trail of the elephant spoor .
    This was a fairly large animal and he had covered a good deal of distance in a short period of time. But we were in pursuit of him now.
    Three hours had passed , but there was was still no sign of the rogue in the hot Indian sun. Finally , the Garo trackers had found a large quantity of elephant dung. The head tracker , Gautam removed his sandal and dipped his toes into the elephant dung. . He told us “ Bhai ei hatee beshi door nai” ( Brother , the elephant could not have gone far as it’s dung is still warm ). Now , we became very cautious and were walking carefully. Mohiyuddin was unrivalled in his skill at hunting elephants. In his entire life , he had only shot two kinds of animals : Deer for the family table and elephants during his duties as a forest department officials. But for these two animals , he was an unrivalled marksman. And today would be the day when l finally was able to see his skill first hand. We found the elephant. The vegetation was not so dense , but there were enough trees which the elephant was breaking pieces of. I had my camera with me , as Mohiyuddin crept to within less than forty yards of the rogue elephant. He raised his rifle to his shoulder and lined up the front sight of his .303 bore with the back sight. He took careful aim at the side of the elephant’s head. I took a single photograph which l would cherish for the rest of my life.

    Mohiyuddin pulled the trigger . A sharp crack and the rogue's lifeless corpse dropped to the ground , a neat little hole on the side of his head. This was a clean execution to the monarch of the Indian forests.
    The epilogue will follow.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 4, 2019
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  4. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    The rogue weighed upwards of five tons . We had promised the Garo trackers the meat of the elephant and indeed , in a few moments , our enthusiastic Garo friends were cutting the animal open with ram daos ( large knives ) and kudaal ( large , heavy axes ) . Inside the brain of the rogue , l was most surprised to see a few ( four , if l recall correctly ) large maggots squirming around . However , l was told by Mohiyuddin that this was not an uncommon sight. The poor creature also had several quills from a Shojaru ( porcupine ) embedded in it's right hind leg. Perhaps , it had turned rogue for a reason...
    Mohiyuddin would go on to shoot more rogue elephants , all over central India , as part of his work as a forest department officer. Eventually , he would expend his old stock of .303 bore cartridges and then would use the issued Soviet Kolashnikov fully automatic rifle for the 7.62 millimeter cartridge . Despite the pointed heads of the metal envelope bullets , he was able to kill several more rogue elephants . However , this was done by firing fifteen to twenty cartridges at their heads and bodies and can therefore , hardly qualify as sporting killing.
    During the Bangladesh Liberation war , he was was assigned to an HMG post ( heavy machine gun ) where he had to operate a .50 caliber Browning model 2 machine gun . He was killed in action in October , 1971 during an ambush at Tangail . He was posthumously awarded the title of Bir Bikrom , one of the highest military awards given in Bangladesh. The story among his surviving squadron members was that he had his foot destroyed by a mortar blast and stuck to his HMG position to provide automatic fire and allow his team members time to escape. I dedicate this article to him and l also thank his son , for providing me with the very first photograph in this article.
    I am also interested to know from my respected forum members about how large African Elephants typically can be. I understand that the legal minimum caliber for them is .375 bore , although some sources state that it is .400 bore.
     
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  5. JPbowhunter

    JPbowhunter AH Fanatic

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    Another great article sir, thank you
     
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  6. BenKK

    BenKK AH Elite

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    Thank you once again for a wonderful story!
     
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  7. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    JPbowhunter
    Thank you so much for your appreciation
     

  8. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    BenKK
    Thank you so much for your kind words.
     

  9. sambarhunter

    sambarhunter AH Fanatic

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    A great account,thanks.
     
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  10. MAdcox

    MAdcox GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Thank you for another great story.
     
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  11. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Sambharhunter
    Thank you for your kind words
     

  12. Red Leg

    Red Leg AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Many, many thanks. There is no better way to honor the memory of an absent comrade than to tell or write his story. For a while he lives with all who hear or read it.
     

  13. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    MAdcox ,
    I am glad you enjoyed it. Tuskless bulls are odd in India
     
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  14. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Red Leg
    Your comment is very accurate. Their memories will live in these articles and when l am writing them , for a brief moment l feel that they are with me again , alive and well.
     

  15. CoElkHunter

    CoElkHunter AH Fanatic

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    Kawshik,
    Another great historical account of hunting’s bygone days in a “far away land” to most of us here on AH. These historical hunting accounts by you are really something to be treasured and shared to all with like interests. As I mentioned to Hoss Delgado, it would be great if you could/would consider placing all of these accounts/ experiences/ photographs, etc., in a book/manuscript style format, which would preserve these things you’ve experienced through the many years forever?
    CEH
     

  16. Newboomer

    Newboomer GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Excellent account. Thank you. I didn't realize Indian elephants were that large.
     
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  17. MAdcox

    MAdcox GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Sign me up to buy a copy, Mr. Rahman would have a pretty active client base to sell that book to right here.
     

  18. mark-hunter

    mark-hunter AH Fanatic

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    Dear Sir,
    The rebellion you have mentioned, in 1857, was again due to animals.
    Colonial Indian troops, rebelled against British, under belief that paper cartridges used in then-muzzle loaders were greased with animal fat (beef and pork fat). Loading the from muzzle, it would require biting of a piece of paper holding powder, or lead balls greased by saliva...

    Back, to the story,
    I thank you for your time, you are opening the gate to old India for us.
    Much appreciated!
     

  19. Ridge Runner

    Ridge Runner AH Enthusiast

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    +1 on buying the book.

    I greatly enjoyed reading these accounts of your good friend.

    My condolences.

    Wounded, staying behind, manning his (machine) gun, willingness to sacrifice himself to save those of his unit, in a very bad situation.

    Myself, now retired soldier, I salute his heroism.
     
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  20. WAB

    WAB AH Elite

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    Thank you for another great adventure. I believe that I would have liked to have known your friend.
     
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