Elephants have played a number of important roles in human history. In some cultures, the elephant is a revered creature. In Buddhism, for example, the vivid dream of Buddha’s mother which foretold her pregnancy had a white elephant in it. Other cultures used the elephant’s great strength and power in battle, or for huge construction projects. There are many examples of these activities - ranging from Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with his 34 African elephants in 218 BC, to the use of these creatures in the construction of Angkor Wat in the 12th century AD. However, it is perhaps less well-known that elephants were also used as deadly executioners.

In the former Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand), elephants were trained to toss their victims into the air before crushing them to death. In the Kingdom of Cochinchina (southern Vietnam), on the other hand, criminals were tied to a stake, whilst an elephant would charge into them, and crush them to death. This form of capital punishment was brutal and terrifying. It also demonstrates the strength and power, as well as importance, that elephants had for past societies. Not only were the great beasts revered in many cultures, but also they were used (as many animals in the past) to complete deadly and destructive tasks.