Elephants moving timber [in Burma].
Photographer: Bourne and Shepherd
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of elephants moving a log, taken in Burma (Myanmar) in the 1870s, by Bourne and Shepherd, part of the Gladstone Collection. The Asian elephant has laboured for man for centuries. Burma still has the world’s largest herd of working elephants, most of which are used in logging and agriculture. The country’s vast mixed deciduous forests are one of its greatest natural resources and as long as the forests remain the working elephant and the ancient traditions that go with it are perpetuated, although mechanised logging and decimation of forests has reduced the populations of elephants elsewhere in Asia. In the 19th century when it was under British rule timber (particularly teak) was one of Burma’s three principal export commodities, the others being rice and oil. Timber was extracted using elephants and buffalo, and floated in rafts down rivers such as the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) to timber yards and saw mills in Rangoon and other towns where it was classified and sold locally or sawn up for export to Europe.