Colombo's Zoological Gardens, situated about six miles from the Ceylonese capital, are claimed to be among the finest in the East.
Colombo's Zoological Gardens, situated about six miles from the Ceylonese capital, are claimed to be among the finest in the East. A colourful variety of flowers and shrubs attracts many visitors, but in the tourist season a troupe of performing elephants draw daily crowds boosted by foreign travellers.
On the commands of their mahouts, the elephants perform a variety of tricks for the crowd. It takes years of patient training to teach the animals their routines, although the Ceylonese claim their elephant population to be the most intelligent in the world. One of their finer skills is their dancing -- they keep perfect time with music.
But the grand final of the act is the courage of the mahouts -- a large number of them can claim to have been lifted up in an elephant's trunk, but only a few actually put themselves into an elephant's mouth.
Elephants have been used in Ceylon for centuries to carry out some of the heavier work such as hauling timber or loads of agricultural goods. But over the last few years, increased standards of living have brought the automobile to the island, and the elephant as a useful animal is quickly disappearing.