Saturday, 21 November 2015

Presence of rhinoceroses in Afghanistan ( in the vicinity of Khyber pass) in 16th century

Sidi Ali Reis was an Ottoman Admiral of Indian ocean fleet in 1553 A.D, during the reign of Suleiman the great. In 1553 he was commanded to fetch back the remains of a fleet which had been left stranded in Basra, Iraq by another officer. When he was preparing to leave Basra, his fleet was attacked by Portuguese and Sidi Ali barely escaped with few vessels to the coast of Gujarat in India. From there he traveled back overland through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Azerbaijan , reaching Istanbul via Baghdad in 1556. He wrote about his experience during the four years of travel in a book called "Mirat ul Memalik". Sidi Ali Reis related how he traveled from the Punjab in present-day Pakistan towards Kabul. His party reached

"the town of Pershuer, i.e. Peshawar. Soon after, we crossed the Khaiber Pass, and reached Djushai. In the mountains we saw two rhinoceroses (Kerkedans), each the size of a small elephant, they have a horn on their nose about two inches long. In Abyssinia these animals are more plentiful. (Mirat ul Memalik, English translation by Vambery, 1899, pp-64-65)

Word "Kerkedan" used by Sidi Ali Reis is Persian designation of the rhinoceros. The two rhinoceros were seen in the mountains in the vicinity of Khyber pass. Sidi Ali traveled from Peshawar into the mountains , and he mentioned the animals only after saying that he crossed the Khyber pass. Its quite possible that Sidi Ali saw the rhinoceroses across the border in present-day Afghanistan. Thus based on Sidi's work it can be concluded, that rhinoceroses was still known in this region until middle of the sixteenth century. 

Sidi Ali Rais. Image credit altayli.n

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