Background on The Terai & the Hunt

The Tarai region of Nepal is a narrow strip of flat land bordering India. Being part of the plain of the river Ganges, its southern area is very fertile agricultural land. Its northern part is marshy and abounds in wild animals. Today, part of this area forms the Royal Chitwan National Park, a Natural World Heritage Site. The Nepali Rana rulers had used this area as a royal hunting reserve from 1846 to 1951, and had maintained a good supply of game for themselves and their guests through the strict enforcement of game laws. "The forested areas of the Tarai are the home of tigers and leopards, gaurs (wild ox), occasional elephants and buffalo, and many deer ... The Lesser Rapti Valley, in the Chitawan district, is one of the last homes of the great Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)." (Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. Nepal).

Adrian Sever describes the King's shoot as follows: "An army of beaters was employed for weeks before the event to drive into a selected area all the big game that inhabited the warm damp jungles of the western Tarai . . . some forty points were selected within the area chosen for the shikar, and kills, usually goats, were tied up so as to establish the number and location of tigers and leopards. They were then hunted in uniquely Nepalese style. The tiger that was reported overnight from a kill was encircled by an enormous ring of elephants and held until dawn and the arrival of the guns. At times, as many as 250 elephants were employed for one circle. As the tiger approached, the ring was contracted until the great cat's escape was cut off. Upon the arrival of the visitors, ten or twelve specially trained elephants were introduced into the circle, which, in some cases was as much as 200 metres in diameter. These proceeded to form a line and march into the patch of jungle in which the tiger was hidden." Eventually, the tiger was flushed out. (Sever, pp.246-247).

Read Olive Smythies detailed description of the style of big-game hunting in Nepal, and the method of using a ring of elephants.

Reference documents

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