Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction 1832

The Elephants in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park

The annexed Engraving will probably afford the reader a better idea of the Zoological Gardens, than did either of our previous Illustrations. It is indeed a fair specimen of the luxurious accommodation afforded by the Society for their animals; while it enables us to watch the habits of the stupendous tenants in a state of nature, or at least, free from unnecessary restriction or confinement. It is an opportunity hitherto but rarely enjoyed in this country; the Elephants exhibited in our menageries being caged up, and only allowed to protrude the head outside the bars. The Duke of Devonshire, as our readers may recollect, possessed an Elephant which died in the year 1829: she was allowed the range of a spacious paddock at Chiswick, but her docility, intelligence, and affection, which were extraordinary, were only witnessed by a few visiters. In the Jardin du Roi, at Paris, the Elephant has long enjoyed advantages proportionate to his importance in the scale of creation. Six years since we remember seeing a fine young specimen in the enjoyment of an ample enclosure of greensward, and a spacious bath has since been added to the accommodations. This example has been rightly followed in our Zoologicai Gardens.
The Elephant Stable is at the extremity of the northern garden in the Regent's Park. It is of capacious dimensions, but is built in a style of unappropriate rusticity. Adjoining the stable is a small enclosure, which the Elephant may measure in two or three turns. Opposite is an enclosure of much greater extent, so as to be almost worthy of the name of a little park or paddock. The fence is of iron, and light but substantial. Within the area are a few lime-trees, the lower branches of which are thinned by the Elephant repeatedly twisting off their foliage with his trunk, as adroitly as a gardener would gather fruit. His main luxury is, however, in his bath, which is a large pool or tank of water, of depth nearly equal to his height.

In hot weather he enjoys his ablutions here with great gusto, exhibiting the liveliest tokens of satisfaction and delight. Our artist has endeavoured to represent the noble creature in his bath, though the pencil can afford but an imperfect idea of the extasy of the animal on this occasion. His evolutions are extraordinary for a creature of such stupendous size. His keeper had at first some difficulty in inducing him to enter the pond, but he now willingly takes to the water, and thereby exhibits himself in a point of view in which we have not hitherto been accustomed to view an Elephant in this country. The fondness of Elephants for bathing is very remarkable. When in the water they often produce a singular noise with their trunks. Bishop Heber describes this habit as he witnessed it near Dacca:—"A sound struck my ear, as if from the water itself on which we were riding, the most solemn and singular I can conceive. It was long, loud, deep, and tremulous, somewhat between the bellowing of a bull and the blowing of a whale, or perhaps most like those roaring buoys which are placed at the mouths of some English harbours, in which the winds make a noise to warn ships off them. 'Oh,' said Abdallah, 'there are Elephants bathing: Dacca much place for Elephant.' I looked immediately, and saw about twenty of these fine animals, with their heads and trunks just appearing above the water. Their bellowing it was which I had heard, and which the water conveyed to us with a finer effect than if we had been on shore." The Elephant can also eject from his trunk water and dust, and his own saliva, over every part of his body, to cool its heated surface; and he is said to grub up dust, and blow it over his back and sides, to keep off the flies. There are two Elephants in the Zoological Gardens. Both are of the Asiatic species. The larger animal was purchased by the Society about fifteen months since. It is probably about eleven years old, and is still growing; and a register of its bulk at various periods has been commenced. The smaller Elephant was presented to the Society by Sir Edward Barnes, late governor of Ceylon. It has been stated to be a dwarf variety, and that its age is not far short of that of the larger individual; but this assertion is questionable. It is much more consistent with our knowledge of the species to regard it, in the absence of all previous knowledge of the history of the individual, as a young one not exceeding four years old. This specimen will be seen in the distance of the Engraving.

Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

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