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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pit Elephants (കുഴി ആന)

This summer we were in Kerala  to participate in a family function. It was extremely humid and hot and there seemed to be no end to sweating and that too quite profusely, despite all the greenery. Kerala summers were never that harsh, thanks to Global Warming. 

Before dropping the Ant

After dropping an ant
One afternoon, I was just loitering around my  ancestral home. I came across some familiar soil formations on the sides of the pathway. Instantly my childhood memories came alive. They were the Sand Pit Traps laboriously created by “Ant Lions”, a term I have borrowed from wikipedia, but we knew that they are the abodes of “Kuzhi Ana” (കുഴി ആന) or literally “Pit Elephants” as they had  long noses. They are a bit different from the one wikipedia describes. The tiny, elephant like insect, used to position itself under the sand awaiting its prey which were usually the ants and other tiny insects. Myself and my sisters used to dig up the pits to catch the insects (Elephants!). Thereafter we used to amuse ourselves by organizing a race for those tiny creatures. Every one of us  used to shout to cheer up one’s own Elephant! as if we are in a horse race.   

Upon spotting the Sand Pit ant Traps, I could not resist the temptation of showing a live demonstration to children at home. They were summoned and a camera was brought in, an ant was caught and put in the hole. Lo! the ant just disappeared. The Antlion or our Pit Elephant living under the sand just dragged its prey in, in   a fraction of a second. There was only a depression in the cavity left behind. We could not, however, photograph that particular action. We should have applied the video mode instead.


  1. Very informative post. Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

  2. very interesting.... i have seen ant lion holes before, but never seen it capturing its prey!

  3. Dear Subramanian Saab,
    So you sent a poor ant to its logical conclusion!
    Ha ha ha.....

  4. so this summer u were feeding pit elephants :)

  5. Dear Subramanianji,
    Good Evening!
    Summer in Kerala is impossible!I reached here in Summer.
    I am happy that you cherished your childhood memories and I could recollect my childhood!These days where children get to know all these amusements?
    Happy to know you are from Thrissur!
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend,

  6. Hi PNS:)

    It is interesting to read a slice of your childhood and how naughty children can be. They are not only naughty but curious and little things like this give them great happiness. The information you have provided is very interesting also. It also reminds me of the saying that only the fittest will survive. Even insects devise so many crafty ways to survive. We human beings being masters of all these creatures have more skillful ways to earn our lively hood.

    I enjoyed reading this informative post and it took me to my childhood days when I did so many naughty things. They were wonderful, carefree days and will never come back. Yet when we think about those days a smile automatically comes to our face.

    Best wishes:_

  7. I hope the ants didn't mind very much being unwilling participants in the video. I'm sure the kids found it entertaining.

    It's scorching over here right now. What is it like over your neck of the woods? Thanks for visiting Norwich Daily Photo and leaving your comment. Come visit again tomorrow!

  8. Hi P.N.! Amazing post... Many years ago I saw a series by Roberto Rossellini named «The Fight for Survival»; he was dealing with men, but it would be also applicable to pit elephants... ,)
    Have a great week!

  9. in Hindi an almost similar creature is called Gubraila...

  10. Sir, It is great I say! I still share the same feelings and sentiments from childhood recollections and tresures!! It is great to read your words! I appreciate all the sublime, rich feelings you evoke with photo finish & flash back!! :-)

    Please continue your great efforts, showcasing the footprints of Time!!

    It's all great and worthwhile! Life with Nature like a child: "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"!!

    I appreciate you for your frank expressions. Touching!! Thanks for that. All the best.

    God bless!!

  11. aapka yah post bio diversity ke naro par bhari padta hai. jab tak hamari ruchi aur drishti in chijo par rahegi, bio diversity kayam rahne ki aasha prabal rahegi.

  12. that was nice - reading about a kuzhi ana after such a long time. it was an integral part of our childhood, watching it make the conical pit..i have not seen it around of recent in the soil.

  13. Good you are educating the kids...they are so out of touch with nature and have seen wild things only on TV.
    Thanks for the visit...your blog is great...informative and attractive.

  14. Myself n my brother frederick used to do the same with them in our childhood days....we put died ants into the pit and also put died antlions(just reverse) to ant houses which is near by...:D...kind of mutual living....my brother(at the age of 8 or 9) used to share his ideas like ,we can start "kuzhianna business" like aquaculture..:D...crazy.....

  15. http://kaweahoaks.com/html/antlion.htm