SI Vault
September 29, 1958
During the trip to India that ended in her tragic death, Ylla (left, seated on elephant) photographed a rhino capture (right) and wrote about
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 29, 1958

Indians And Their Animals

During the trip to India that ended in her tragic death, Ylla (left, seated on elephant) photographed a rhino capture (right) and wrote about

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6

An elephant hunt

HH arranged an elephant hunt for Conan Doyle. We started out in the morning (in a Daimler), had a snack in a luxurious resthouse, then changed for the hunting car, continued for some miles and then proceeded on elephant back. The maharaja, Conan Doyle and two aides were on the first elephant; a forest ranger, HH's two uncles and I were on the second. The forest was very dense; the party was led by two trackers who walked ahead of the first elephant. After we advanced in this manner for about 20 minutes, we suddenly stopped. The forest ranger pointed at the thick bush directly ahead of us and said: "In there. He is in there."

I admit I was scared. If the first shot were to wound the elephant rather than kill him, the denseness of trees and bushes all around us would make it impossible to retreat quickly and, if our elephants were to battle with the wounded one, we would certainly be swept off their backs by the tree branches.

I was never afraid in Africa. Although we often approached big herds of elephants, it was always in the plains, and our intentions were always peaceful. But here we had come with the idea of killing.

No doubt HH knew exactly how dangerous the situation was. For although this was to be Conan Doyle's hunt, a volley of shots burst forth from the first elephant. I heard him say to Conan Doyle immediately after the shooting: "Congratulations, your first shot killed him."

We advanced through the thick bush; there he lay on his side, the big, beautiful tusker, dead with open eyes.

When we got back to the car—Nina Conan Doyle and HH's mother had followed us in the hunting car—Nina Conan Doyle burst into tears when she was told an elephant had been killed. She said: "Why come to India to kill?"

A November tiger hunt

At last the phone call to inform HH that the tigers have taken the bait. The hunting party is gathered hurriedly; HH, his mother, sister, Conan Doyle and a few others; the party leaves in two Rolls-Royces. First to the resthouse for coffee, then by hunting car to the machan (this one consisting of two rows of seats). We are told there are at least three tigers. The beating has started; it is far away, but draws nearer at an even pace, creating an atmosphere of immediacy and tenseness. There are 130 beaters. The first tiger shoots by like lightning. HH did not fire as it was a small female. Another tiger now jumps behind a nearby bush where he hides and refuses to come out. The beaters get closer and closer, and the tiger finally does jump out, is caught in the net and shot. I thought the hunt was over, but it appeared another tiger was hiding somewhere within the hunting area. The tom-tom starts again; after 20 minutes the third tiger charges across, very far left, very fast, gets hit by HH, but not killed, and speeds away. The dead tiger is very beautiful; poor, beautiful thing, with glassy eyes and soft paws.

The tension worked up during the hour and a half of beating and excited voices was so great, it has quite exhausted me. What is the point to all this, really what is the point? The poor, harassed animals! Before they appeared, the bamboos were alive with monkeys and jungle fowl; and then the savage cries and tom-tom of the beaters invading the quiet and dignity of the jungle. Only if we approach animals innocently, only then, it seems to me, can we be fearless and free.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6