Three herds had been originally entrapped by the beaters outside; but with characteristic instinct they had each kept clear of the other, taking up different stations in the space invested by the watchers. When the final drive took place one herd only had entered the enclosure, the other two keeping behind; and as the gate had to be instantly shut on the first division, the last were unavoidably excluded and remained concealed in the jungle. To prevent their escape, the watchers were ordered to their former stations, the fires were replenished; and all precautions having been taken, we returned to pass the night in our bungalows by the river.
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As our sleeping-place was not above two hundred yards from the corral, we were frequently awakened by the din of the multitude who were bivouacking in the forest, by the merriment round the watch-fires, and now and then by the shouts with which the guards repulsed some sudden charge of the elephants in attempts to force the stockade. But at daybreak, on going down to the corral, we found all still and vigilant. The fires were allowed to die out as the sun rose, and the watchers who had been relieved were sleeping near the great fence, the enclosure on all sides being surrounded by crowds of men and boys with spears or white peeled wands about ten feet long, whilst the elephants within were huddled together in a compact group, no longer turbulent and restless, but exhausted and calm, and utterly subdued by apprehension and amazement at all that had been passing around them.
Nine only had been as yet entrapped, of which three were very large, and two were little creatures but a few months old. One of the large ones was a “rogue” and being unassociated with the rest of the herd, he was not admitted to their circle, although permitted to stand near them.
[Footnote 1: In some of the elephant hunts conducted in the southern provinces of Ceylon by the earlier British Governors, as many as 170 and 200 elephants were secured in a single corral, of which a portion only were taken out for the public service, and the rest shot, the motive being to rid the neighbourhood of them, and thus protect the crops from destruction. In the present instance, the object being to secure only as many as were required for the Government stud, it was not sought to entrap more than could conveniently be attended to and trained after capture.]
Meanwhile, preparations were making outside to conduct the tame elephants into the corral, in order to secure the captives. Noosed ropes were in readiness; and far apart from all stood a party of the out-caste Rodiyas, the only tribe who will touch a dead carcase, to whom, therefore, the duty is assigned of preparing the fine flexible rope for noosing, which is made from the fresh hides of the deer and the buffalo.