The "new chap," a bull-sized baby elephant about 8 months old, clearly was angry. From his mouth came a baby elephant-sized trumpet, which would be loud by any other standard, and he wrapped his trunk around the keeper's leg.
He wanted his milk, but just 10 days out of the jungle he had trouble sucking it from the elephant baby bottle -- a quart-sized beer bottle with a length of hose stuck in its mouth as a nipple.
When he got the knack of it, the glug-glug of the milk pouring down his throat made the keeper smile.
The "new chap," name Diula, was the latest addition to Sri Lanka's elephant orphanage, a unique institution set up on 124 acres outside of the city of Kandy to save this island country's dwindling elephant herd.
Like most of the other young elephants here, Diula had been rescued by government wildlife agents who believe his mother was killed by farmers.
The increasing pressure on the island's 16.4 million acres for farm land to feed 14.5 million people threatens the elephant herds that once walked uunmolested through jungle.
Furthermore, poachers kill elephants for their valuable ivory tusks, and other elephants die after falling into deep pits dug by gem-hunters.
As a result, estimates place the number of elephants left in Sri Lanka at fewer than 3,500, with about 200 dying each year and only about 150 newborns replacing them.
The orphanage's four baby elephants -- there are also seven older pachyderms -- each get 50 bottles of powdered milk a day, fed to them five times.
The elephant is an important symbol for Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. The national bottled water bears the elephant brand and work elephants are common sights.
The elephant orphanage here was established in 1974 by then-prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. It is often used for state gifts. A young elephant named Vishvamali was taken by Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa as a gift to the children of the Philippines during a recent visit. p