The Key to the Plate representing the method of catching Wild Elephants
Engraver: Havell, R. & Son
Aquatint published by R. Cribb and Son in 1817, explaining the processes employed in capturing wild elephants in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and part of the King George III's Topographical Collection. Elephants are an integral part of the pageantry of Sri Lankan culture, and the capture and taming of wild elephants had been happening here for millennia. Traditionally elephants were captured for the King and kept in his stables. They were also exported to other countries. The methods of capturing them were refined and modified as time went on. Elephants were used in religious ceremonies and processions, in warfare, and for work activities such as logging, transport and construction. The Imperial Gazetteer of India explains 'As a rule elephants are captured in stockades (kheddas) into which whole herds are driven, a few are caught in pitfalls, others are run down and noosed by men riding fast tame animals'. Elephants were abundant in Sri Lanka but their decline began with the advent of the British who deemed them agricultural pests and encouraged their killing. Today the degradation of forest cover and indiscriminate killing have reduced their population in the country to dismal levels.