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NATURAL HISTORY OF CEYLON
NARRATIVES AND ANECDOTES
Illustrative of the Habits and Instincts of the MAMMALIA, BIRDS, REPTILES, FISHES, INSECTS, &c.
INCLUDING A MONOGRAPH OF
AND A DESCRIPTION OF THE MODES OF CAPTURING AND TRAINING IT WITH ENGRAVINGS FROM ORIGINAL DRAWINGS
SIR J. EMERSON TENNENT, K.C.S. LL.D. &c.
* * * * *
A considerable portion of the contents of the present volume formed the zoological section of a much more comprehensive work recently published, on the history and present condition of Ceylon. But its inclusion there was a matter of difficulty; for to have altogether omitted the chapters on Natural History would have impaired the completeness of the plan on which I had attempted to describe the island; whilst to insert them as they here appear, without curtailment, would have encroached unduly on the space required for other essential topics. In this dilemma, I was obliged to adopt the alternative of so condensing the matter as to bring the whole within the prescribed proportions.
But this operation necessarily diminished the general interest of the subjects treated, as well by the omission of incidents which would otherwise have been retained, as by the exclusion of anecdotes calculated to illustrate the habits and instincts of the animals described.
[Footnote 1: _Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Physical, Historical, and Typographical; with Notices of its Natural History, Antiquities, and Productions._ By Sir JAMES EMERSON TENNENT, K.C.S., LL.D., &c. Illustrated by Maps. Plans, and Drawings. 2 vols. 8vo. Longman and Co., 1859.]
A suggestion to re-publish these sections in an independent form has afforded an opportunity for repairing some of these defects by revising the entire, restoring omitted passages, and introducing fresh materials collected in Ceylon; the additional matter occupying a very large portion of the present volume.
I have been enabled, at the same time, to avail myself of the corrections and communications of scientific friends; and thus to compensate, in some degree for what is still incomplete, by increased accuracy in minute particulars.
In the Introduction to the First Edition of the original work I alluded, in the following terms, to that portion of it which is now reproduced in an extended form:–
“Regarding the _fauna_ of Ceylon, little has been published in any collective form, with the exception of a volume by Dr. KELAART entitled _Prodromus Faunae Zeilanicae_; several valuable papers by Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD in the _Annals and Magazine of Natural History_ for 1852 and 1853; and some very imperfect lists appended to PRIDHAM’S compiled account of the island. KNOX, in the charming narrative of his captivity, published in the feign of Charles II., has devoted a chapter to the animals of Ceylon, and Dr. DAVY has described some of the reptiles: but with these exceptions the subject is almost untouched in works relating to the colony. Yet a more than ordinary interest attaches to the inquiry, since Ceylon, instead of presenting, as is generally assumed, an identity between its _fauna_ and that of Southern India, exhibits a remarkable diversity, taken in connection with the limited area over which the animals included in it are distributed. The island, in fact, may be regarded as the centre of a geographical circle, possessing within itself forms, whose allied species radiate far into the temperate regions of the north, as well as in to Africa, Australia, and the isles of the Eastern Archipelago.
[Footnote 1: _An Historical, Political, and Statistical Account of Ceylon and its Dependencies_, by C. PRIDHAM, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo., London, 1849.]
“In the chapters that I have devoted to its elucidation, I have endeavoured to interest others in the subject, by describing my own observations and impressions, with fidelity, and with as much accuracy as may be expected from a person possessing, as I do, no greater knowledge of zoology and the other physical sciences than is ordinarily possessed by any educated gentleman. It was my good fortune, however, in my journeys to have the companionship of friends familiar with many branches of natural science: the late Dr. GARDNER, Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD, an accomplished zoologist, Dr. TEMPLETON, and others; and I was thus enabled to collect on the spot many interesting facts relative to the structure and habits of the numerous tribes. These, chastened by the corrections of my fellow-travellers, and established by the examination of collections made in the colony, and by subsequent comparison with specimens contained in museums at home, I have ventured to submit as faithful outlines of the _fauna_ of Ceylon.
“The sections descriptive of the several classes are accompanied by lists, prepared with the assistance of scientific friends, showing the extent to which each particular branch had been investigated by naturalists, up to the period of my departure from Ceylon at the close of 1849. These, besides their inherent interest, will, I trust, stimulate others to engage in the same pursuit, by exhibiting chasms, which it remains for future industry and research to fill up;–and the study of the zoology of Ceylon may thus serve as a preparative for that of Continental India, embracing, as the former does, much that is common to both, as well as possessing a _fauna_ peculiar to the island, that in itself will amply repay more extended scrutiny.
“From these lists have been excluded all species regarding the authenticity of which reasonable doubts could be entertained, and of some of them, a very few have been printed in _italics_, in order to denote the desirability of more minute comparison with well-determined specimens in the great national depositories before finally incorporating them with the Singhalese catalogues.
[Footnote 1: An exception occurs in the list of shells, prepared by Mr. SYLVANUS HANLEY, in which some whose localities are doubtful have been admitted for reasons adduced. (See p. 387.)]
“In the labour of collecting and verifying the facts embodied in these sections, I cannot too warmly express my thanks for the aid I have received from gentlemen interested in similar studies in Ceylon: from Dr. KELAART and Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD, as well as from officers of the Ceylon Civil Service; the Hon. GERALD C. TALBOT, Mr. C.R. BULLER, Mr. MERCER, Mr. MORRIS, Mr. WHITING, Major SKINNER, and Mr. MITFORD.
[Footnote 1: It is with deep regret that I have to record the death of this accomplished gentleman, which occurred in 1860.]
“Before venturing to commit these chapters of my work to the press, I have had the advantage of having portions of them read by Professor HUXLEY, Mr. MOORE, of the East India House Museum; Mr. R. PATTERSON, F.R.S., author of the _Introduction to Zoology_; and by Mr. ADAM WHITE, of the British Museum; to each of whom I am exceedingly indebted for the care they have bestowed. In an especial degree I have to acknowledge the kindness of Dr. J.E. GRAY, F.R.S., for valuable additions and corrections in the list of the Ceylon Reptilia; and to Professor FARADAY for some notes on the nature and qualities of the “Serpent Stone,” submitted to him.
[Footnote 2: See p. 312.]
“The extent to which my observations on _the Elephant_ have been carried, requires some explanation. The existing notices of this noble creature are chiefly devoted to its habits and capabilities _in captivity_; and very few works, with which I am acquainted, contain illustrations of its instincts and functions when wild in its native woods. Opportunities for observing the latter, and for collecting facts in connection with them, are abundant in Ceylon; and from the moment of my arrival, I profited by every occasion afforded to me for observing the elephant in a state of nature, and obtaining from hunters and natives correct information as to its oeconomy and disposition. Anecdotes in connection with this subject, I received from some of the most experienced residents in the island; amongst others, from Major SKINNER, Captain PHILIP PAYNE GALLWEY, Mr. FAIRHOLME, Mr. CRIPPS, and Mr. MORRIS. Nor can I omit to express my acknowledgments to Professor OWEN, of the British Museum, to whom this portion of my manuscript was submitted previous to its committal to the press.”
To the foregoing observations I have little to add beyond my acknowledgment to Dr. ALBERT GUeNTHER, of the British Museum, for the communication of important facts in illustration of the ichthyology of Ceylon, as well as of the reptiles of the island.
Mr. BLYTH, of the Calcutta Museum, has carefully revised the Catalogue of Birds, and supplied me with much useful information in regard to their geographical distribution. To his experienced scrutiny is due the perfected state in which the list is now presented. It will be seen, however, from the italicised names still retained, that inquiry is far from being exhausted.
Mr. THWAITES, the able Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Peradenia, near Kandy, has forwarded to me many valuable observations, not only in connection with the botany, but the zoology of the mountain region. The latter I have here embodied in their appropriate places, and those relating to plants and vegetation will appear in a future edition of my large work.
To M. NIETNER, of Colombo, I am likewise indebted for many particulars regarding Singhalese Entomology, a department to which his attention has been given, with equal earnestness and success.
Through the Hon. RICHARD MORGAN, acting Senior Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court at Colombo, I have received from his Interpreter, M.D. DE SILVA GOONERATNE MODLIAR, a Singhalese gentleman of learning and observation, many important notes, of which I have largely availed myself, in relation to the wild animals, and the folk-lore and superstitions of the natives in connection with them.
Of the latter I have inserted numerous examples; in the conviction that, notwithstanding their obvious errors in many instances, these popular legends and traditions occasionally embody traces of actual observation, and may contain hints and materials deserving of minuter inquiry.
I wish distinctly to disclaim offering the present volume as a compendium of the Natural History of Ceylon. I present it merely as a “memoire pour servir,” materials to assist some future inquirer in the formation of a more detailed and systematic account of the _fauna_ of the island. My design has been to point out to others the extreme richness and variety of the field, the facility of exploring it, and the charms and attractions of the undertaking. I am eager to show how much remains to do by exhibiting the little that has as yet been done.
The departments of _Mammalia_ and _Birds_ are the only two which can be said to have as yet undergone tolerably close investigation; although even in these it is probable that large additions still remain to be made to the ascertained species. But, independently of forms and specific characteristics, the more interesting inquiry into habits and instincts is still open for observation and remark; and for the investigation of these no country can possibly afford more inviting opportunities than Ceylon.
Concerning the _Reptilia_ a considerable amount of information has been amassed. The Batrachians and smaller Lizards have, I apprehend, been imperfectly investigated; but the Tortoises are well known, and the Serpents, from the fearful interest attaching to the race, and stimulating their destruction, have been so vigilantly pursued, that there is reason to believe that few, if any, varieties exist which have not been carefully examined. In a very large collection, made by Mr. CHARLES REGINALD BULLER during many years’ residence in Kandy, and recently submitted by him to Dr. Guenther, only one single specimen proved to be new or previously unknown to belong to the island.
Of the _Ichthyology_ of Ceylon I am obliged to speak ill very different terms; for although the materials are abundant almost to profusion, little has yet been done to bring them under thoroughly scientific scrutiny. In the following pages I have alluded to the large collection of examples of Fishes sent home by officers of the Medical Staff, and which still remain unopened, in the Fort Pitt Museum at Chatham; but I am not without hope that these may shortly undergo comparison with the drawings which exist of each, and that this branch of the island _fauna_ may at last attract the attention to which its richness so eminently entitles it.
In the department of Entomology much has already been achieved; but an extended area still invites future explorers; and one which the Notes of Mr. Walker prefixed to the List of Insects in this volume, show to be of extraordinary interest, from the unexpected convergence in Ceylon of characteristics heretofore supposed to have been kept distinct by the broad lines of geographical distribution.
Relative to the inferior classes of _Invertebrata_ very little has as yet been ascertained. The Mollusca, especially the lacustrine and fluviatile, have been most imperfectly investigated; and of the land-shells, a large proportion have yet to be submitted to scientific examination.
The same may be said of the _Arachnida_ and _Crustacea_. The jungle is frequented by spiders, _phalangia_, and acarids, of which nothing is known with certainty; and the sea-shore and sands have been equally overlooked, so far as concerns the infinite variety of lobsters, crayfish, crabs, and all their minor congeners. The _polypi, echini, asterias_, and other _radiata_ of the coast, as well as the _acalephae_ of the deeper waters, have shared the same neglect: and literally nothing has been done to collect and classify the infusoriae and minuter zoophytes, the labours of Dr. Kelaart amongst the Diatomaceae being the solitary exception.
[Footnote 1: Commonly called “harvest-men.”]
Nothing is so likely to act as a stimulant to future research as an accurate conception of what has already been achieved. With equal terseness and truth Dr. Johnson has observed that the traveller who would bring back knowledge from any country must carry knowledge with him at setting out: and I am not without hope that the demonstration I now venture to offer, of the little that has already been done for zoology in Ceylon, may serve to inspire others with a desire to resume and complete the inquiry.
J. EMERSON TENNENT
London: November 1st, 1861.
* * * * *
Neglect of zoology in Ceylon
Labours of Dr. Davy
Followed by Dr. Templeton and others
Dr. Kelaart and Mr. E.L. Layard
The Rilawa, _Macacus pileatus_
Knox’s account of them
Error regarding the _Silenus Veter (note)_ Presbytes Cephalopterus
Fond of eating flowers
A white monkey
Method of the flight of monkeys
P. Ursinus in the Hills
P. Thersites in the Wanny
P. Priamus, Jaffna and Trincomalie No dead monkey ever found
Flying Fox, _Pteropus Edwardsii_
Their numbers at Peradenia
Singularity of their attitudes
Food and mode of eating
Horse-shoe bat, _Rhinolophus_
Faculty of smell in bat
A tiny bat, _Scotophilus foromandelicus_ Extraordinary parasite of the bat, the _Nycteribia_
Singhalese belief in the efficacy of charms (_note_)
Erroneously confounded with the Indian _cheetah_ Curious belief
Anecdotes of leopards
Their attraction by the smallpox
Encounter with a leopard
Monkeys killed by leopards
Alleged peculiarity of the claws
Cruel mode of destroying dogs
Their republican instincts
Cunning, anecdotes of
The horn of the jackal
Its fights with serpents
Theory of its antidote
Story of a rat and a snake
Its habits and gentleness
Encounter of a cow and a leopard
Attempt to introduce the camel (note) Buffaloes
Peculiar structure of the foot
Recent discovery of a new species
Geological speculations as to the island of Ceylon Ancient tradition
Opinion of Professor Ansted
Peculiarities in Ceylon mammalia
The same in Ceylon birds and insects Temminck’s discovery of a new species of elephant in Sumatra Points of distinction between it and the elephant of India Professor Schlegel’s description
Origin of the fable of the mermaid Credulity of the Portuguese
Belief of the Dutch
Testimony of Valentyn
List of Ceylon mammalia
* * * * *
Vast numbers in Ceylon
Derivation of the word “elephant” (note)
Antiquity of the trade in elephants
Numbers now diminishing
Mischief done by them to crops
Ivory scarce in Ceylon
Conjectures as to the absence of tusks
Elephant a harmless animal
Alleged antipathies to other animals
Fights with each other
The foot its chief weapon
Use of the tusks in a wild state doubtful
Anecdote of sagacity in an elephant at Kandy
Difference between African and Indian species
Native ideas of perfection in an elephant
Blotches on the skin
White elephants not unknown in Ceylon
* * * * *
Water, but not heat, essential to elephants
Cries of the elephant
Facility of stealthy motion
Ancient delusion as to the joints of the leg
Its exposure by Sir Thos. Browne
Its perpetuation by poets and others
Position of the elephant in sleep
An elephant killed on its feet
Mode of lying down
Its gait a shuffle
Power of climbing mountains
Facilitated by the joint of the knee
Mode of descending declivities
A “herd” is a family
Attachment to their young
Suckled indifferently by the females
A “rogue” elephant
Their cunning and vice
Injuries done by them
The leader of a herd a tusker
Bathing and nocturnal gambols, description of a scene by Major Skinner
Method of swimming
Internal anatomy imperfectly known
Faculty of storing water
Peculiarity of the stomach
The food of the elephant
Sagacity in search of it
Unexplained dread of fences
Its spirit of inquisitiveness
Anecdotes illustrative of its curiosity
Estimate of sagacity
Singular conduct of a herd during thunder
An elephant feigning death
_Appendix_.–Narratives of natives, as to encounters with rogue elephants
* * * * *
Vast numbers shot in Ceylon
Revolting details of elephant killing in Africa
Fatal spots at which to aim
Structure of the bones of the head
Wounds which are certain to kill
Attitudes when surprised
Peculiar movements when reposing
Habits when attacked
Sagacity of native trackers
Courage and agility of the elephants in escape
Worthlessness of the carcass
Singular recovery from a wound
* * * * *
_An Elephant Corral_.
Early method of catching elephants
Capture in pit-falls
By means of decoys
Panickeas–their courage and address
Their sagacity in following the elephant
Mode of capture by the noose
Mode of taming
Method of leading the elephants to the coast
Process of embarking them at Manaar
Method of capturing a whole herd
The “keddah” in Bengal described
Process of enclosing a herd
Process of capture in Ceylon
An elephant corral and its construction
An elephant hunt in Ceylon, 1847
The town and district of Kornegalle
The rock of AEtagalla
Forced labour of the corral in former times
Now given voluntarily
Form of the enclosure
Method of securing a wild herd
Scene when driving them into the corral
An elephant drove by night
Singular scene in the corral
Excitement of the tame elephants
* * * * *
A night scene
Morning in the corral
Preparations for securing the captives
The “cooroowe,” or noosers
The tame decoys
First captive tied up
Singular conduct of the wild elephants
Furious attempts of the herd to escape
Courageous conduct of the natives
Variety of disposition exhibited by the herd
Extraordinary contortions of the captives
Water withdrawn from the stomach
Instinct of the decoys
Conduct of the noosers
The young ones and their actions
Noosing a “rogue.” and his death
Instinct of flies in search of carrion (_note_)
A second herd captured
Their treatment of a solitary elephant
A magnificent female elephant
Her extraordinary attitudes
Taking the captives out of the corral
Their subsequent treatment and training
Grandeur of the scene
Story of young pet elephant
* * * * *
_Conduct in Captivity_.
Alleged superiority of the Indian to the African elephant–not true
Ditto of Ceylon elephant to Indian
Process of training in Ceylon
Allowed to bathe
Difference of disposition
Sudden death of “broken heart”
First employment treading clay
Drawing a waggon
Sagacity in labour
Mode of raising stones
Strength in throwing down trees exaggerated
Not uniform in habits of work
Lazy if not watched
Obedience to keeper from affection, not fear
Change of keeper–story of child
Ear for sounds and music
Endurance of pain
Working elephants, delicate
Deaths in government stud
Subject to tooth-ache
Question of the value of labour of an elephant
Food in captivity, and cost
Breed in captivity
Theory of M. Fleurens
No dead elephants found
Passage from AElian
Hornbills, the “bird with two heads”
Sea birds, their number
Falcons and hawks
Owls–the devil bird
Bul-bul–tailor bird–and weaver
The mountain jay
Crows, anecdotes of
VI. _Grallae_.–Ibis, stork, &c.
List of Ceylon birds
List of birds peculiar to Ceylon
Kabara-goya, barbarous custom in preparing the kabara-tel poison Blood-suckers
The green calotes
The lyre-headed lizard
Geckoes,–their power of reproducing limbs
Their sensitiveness to tickling
Anecdotes of crocodiles
Their power of burying themselves in the mud
Cruel mode of cutting it up alive
Huge Indian tortoises (_note_)
Hawk’s-bill turtle, barbarous mode of stripping it of the tortoise-shell
_Serpents_.–Venomous species rare
Tic polonga and carawala
Cobra de capello
Tame snakes (_note_)
Anecdotes of the cobra de capello
Legends concerning it
Instance of land snakes found at sea Singular tradition regarding the robra de capello Uropeltidae.–New species discovered in Ceylon Buddhist veneration for the cobra de capello The Python
Analysis of one
List of Ceylon reptiles
Ichthyology of Ceylon, little known
Fish for table, seir fish
Fish of brilliant colours
Curious fish described by AElian
Beautifully coloured fishes
Fresh-water fish, little known,–not much eaten
Fresh-water fish in Colombo Lake
Immense profusion of fish in the rivers and lakes
Their re-appearance after rain
Mode of fishing in the ponds
Showers of fish
Conjecture that the ova are preserved, not tenable
Fish moving on dry land
Ancient authorities, Greek and Roman Aristotle and Theophrastus
Athenaeus and Polybius
Livy, Pompomus, Mela, and Juvenal
Seneca and Pliny
Georgius Agricola, Gesner, &c. Instances in Guiana (_note_)
_Perca Scandens_, ascends trees
Doubts as to the story of Daldorf
Fishes burying themselves daring the dry season The _protopterus_ of the Gambia
Instances in the fish of the Nile
Instances in the fish of South America Living fish dug out of the ground in the dry tanks in Ceylon Molluscs that bury themselves
The animals that so bury themselves in India Analogous case of
Theory of aestivation and hybernation
Fish in hot water in Ceylon
List of Ceylon fishes
Instances of fishes falling from the clouds
_Note_ on Ceylon fishes by Professor Huxley
Comparative note by Dr. Gray, Brit. Mus.
_Note_ on the Bora-chung
MOLLUSCA, RADIATA, AND ACALEPHAE.
I. _Conchology_.–General character of Ceylon shells Confusion regarding them in scientific works and collections Ancient export of shells from Ceylon
Special forms confined to particular localities The pearl fishery of Aripo
Frequent suspensions of
Experiment to create beds of the pearl oyster Process of diving for pearls
Danger from sharks
The transparent pearl oyster (_Placuna placenta_) The “musical fish” at Ballicaloa
A similar phenomenon at other places Faculty of uttering sounds in fishes
Instance in the _Tritonia arborescens_ Difficulty in forming a list of Ceylon shells List of Ceylon shells
II. _Radiata_.–Star fish
III. _Acalephae_, abundant
The Portuguese man-of-war
_Note_ on the _Tritonia arborescens_
Profusion of insects in Ceylon
Imperfect knowledge of
II. _Orthoptera_.–Mantis and leaf-insects Stick-insects
III. _Neuroptera_.–Dragon flies
Anecdotes of their instinct and ravages
IV. _Hymenoptera_.–Mason wasps
Mosquitoes the “plague of flies”
The coffee bug
General character of Ceylon insects
List of insects in Ceylon
ARACHNIDAE, MYRIOPODA, CRUSTACAE, ETC.
Strange nets of the wood spiders
Birds killed by it
The fish insect
_Annelidae_, Leeches.–The land leech Medicinal leech
List of Articulata, &c.
_Note_.–On the revivification of the Rotifera and Paste-eels
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
View of an Elephant Corral Frontispiece
Group of Ceylon Monkeys to face 5
The Loris (_Loris gracilis_) 12
Group of Flying Foxes (_Pteropus Edwardsii_) to face 14
Head of the Horse-shoe Bat (_Rhynulophus_) 19
Indian Bear (_Prochylus labiatus_) 23
Ceylon Leopard and Indian Cheetah 26
Jackal’s Skull and “Horn” 36
Mongoos of Neura-ellia (_Herpestes vitticollis_) 38
Flying Squirrel (_Pteromys oral_) 41
Coffee Rat (_Golunda Elliotti_) 44
Bandicoot Rat (_Mus bandicota_) 45
Pengolin (_Manis pentadactylus_) 47
Skeleton of the Pengolin 48
Moose-deer (_Moschus meminna_) 55
The Dugong (_Halicore dugung_) 69
The Mermaid, from Valentyn 72
Brain of the Elephant 95
Bones of the Fore-leg 108
Elephant descending a Hill 111
Elephant’s Well 122
Elephant’s Stomach, showing the Water-cells 125
Elephant’s Trachea 126
Water-cells in the Stomach of the Camel 128
Section of the Elephant’s Skull 145
Fence and Ground-plan of a Corral 172
Mode of tying an Elephant 184
His Struggles for Freedom 185
Impotent Fury 188
Obstinate Resistance 189
Attitude for Defence 203
Singular Contortions of an Elephant 204
Figures of the African and Indian Elephants on Greek and Roman Coins 208
Medal of Numidia 212
Modern “Hendoo” ib.
The Horn-bill (_Buceros pica_) 243
The “Devil-bird” (_Syrnium Indranec_) 247
The “Cotton-thief” (_Tchitrea paradisi_) 250
Layard Mountain Jay (_Cissa puella_) 252
The “Double-spur” (_Gallo-perdix bicalcaratus_) 260
The Flamingo (_Phoenicopterus roseus_) 261
The Kabara-goya Lizard (_Hydrosaurus salvator_) 273
The Green Calotes (_Calotes ophiomachus_) 276
Tongue of the Chameleon 278
_Ceratophora_ _to face_ 280
Skulls of the Crocodile and Alligator 283
Terrapin (_Emys trijuga_) 290
Shield-tailed Serpent (_Uropeltis grandis_) 302
Tree Snake (_Passerita fusca_) _to face_ 307
Sea Snake (_Hydrophis subloevisis_) _to face_ 311
Saw of the Saw-fish (_Pristis antiquorum_) _to face_ 326
Ray (_Aetobates narinari_) 327
Sword-fish (_Histiophorus immaculatus_) 330
_Pterois volitans_ 334
_Scarus harid_ 335
Perch (_Therapon quadrilineatus_) 337
Eel (_Mastacembelus armatus_) 338
Mode of Fishing, after Rain 340
Plan of a Fish Decoy 342
The Anabas of the dry Tanks 354
The Violet Ianthina and its Shell 370
_Bullia vittata_ ib.
Pearl Oysters, in various Stages of Growth _to face_ 380
Pearl Oyster, full grown _to face_ 381
_Cerithium palustre_ ib.
The Portuguese Man-of-war (_Physalus urticulus_) 399
Longicorn Beetle (_Batocera rubus_) 406
Leaf Insects, &c 409
Eggs of the Leaf Insect (_Phyllium siccifolium_) 410
The Carpenter Bee (_Xylocapa tenniscapa_) 419
Wood-carrying Moths 431
The “Knife, grinder” (_Cicada_) 432
Flata (_Elidiptera Emersoniana and Poeciloptera Tennentii_) 433
The “Coffee-bug” (_Lecanium caffeae_) _to face_ 436
Spider (_Mygate fasciata_) _to face_ 465
The Calling Crab (_Gelusimus_) 477
Eyes and Teeth of the Leech 480
Land Leeches preparing to attack 481
Medicinal Leech of Ceylon 483
With the exception of the Mammalia and Birds, the fauna of Ceylon has, up to the present, failed to receive that systematic attention to which its richness and variety most amply entitle it. The Singhalese themselves, habitually indolent, and singularly unobservant of nature and her operations, are at the same time restrained from the study of natural history by the tenet of their religion which forbids the taking of life under any circumstances. From the nature of their avocations, the majority of the European residents, engaged in planting and commerce, are discouraged by want of leisure from cultivating the taste; and it is to be regretted that, with few exceptions, the civil servants of the government, whose position and duties would have afforded them influence and extended opportunities for successful investigation, have never seen the importance of encouraging such studies.
The first effective impulse to the cultivation of natural science in Ceylon, was communicated by Dr. Davy when connected with the medical staff of the army from 1816 to 1820, and his example stimulated some of the assistant-surgeons of Her Majesty’s forces to make collections in illustration of the productions of the colony. Of these the late Dr. Kinnis was one of the most energetic and successful. He was seconded by Dr. Templeton of the Royal Artillery, who engaged assiduously in the investigation of various orders, and commenced an interchange of specimens with Mr. Blyth, the distinguished naturalist and curator of the Calcutta Museum. The birds and rarer vertebrata of the island were thus compared with their peninsular congeners, and a tolerable knowledge of those belonging to the island, so far as regards the higher classes of animals, has been the result. The example so set was perseveringly followed by Mr. E.L. Layard and the late Dr. Kelaart, and infinite credit is due to Mr. Blyth for the zealous and untiring energy with which he has devoted his attention and leisure to the identification of the specimens forwarded from Ceylon, and to their description in the Calcutta Journal. To him, and to the gentlemen I have named, we are mainly indebted for whatever accurate knowledge we now possess of the zoology of the colony.
[Footnote 1: Dr. DAVY, brother to the illustrious Sir Humphry Davy, published, in 1821, his _Account of the Interior of Ceylon and its Inhabitants_, which contains the earliest notice of the Natural History of the island, and especially of its ophidian reptiles.]
[Footnote 2: _Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal_, vol. xv. p. 280, 314.]
The mammalia, birds, and reptiles received their first scientific description in an able work published in 1852 by Dr. Kelaart of the army medical staff, which is by far the most valuable that has yet appeared on the Singhalese fauna. Co-operating with him, Mr. Layard has supplied a fund of information especially in ornithology and conchology. The zoophytes and Crustacea have I believe been partially investigated by Professor Harvey, who visited Ceylon in 1852, and more recently by Professor Schmarda, of the University of Prague. From the united labours of these gentlemen and others interested in the same pursuits, we may hope at an early day to obtain such a knowledge of the zoology of Ceylon as will to some extent compensate for the long indifference of the government officers.
[Footnote 1: _Prodromus Faunae Zeylanicae; being Contributions to the Zoology of Ceylon_, by F. KELAART, Esq., M.D., F.L.S., &c. &c. 2 vols. Colombo and London, 1852.]
[Illustration: CEYLON MONKEYS.
1. _Presbytes cephalopterus._
2. _P. thersites_
3. _P. Priamus_
4. _Macacus pileatus_]
I. QUADRUMANA. 1. _Monkeys_.–To a stranger in the tropics, among the most attractive creatures in the forests are the troops of _monkeys_ that career in ceaseless chase among the loftiest trees. In Ceylon there are five species, four of which belong to one group, the Wanderoos, and the other is the little graceful grimacing _rilawa_, which is the universal pet and favourite of both natives and Europeans. The Tamil conjurors teach it to dance, and in their wanderings carry it from village to village, clad in a grotesque dress, to exhibit its lively performances. It does not object to smoke tobacco. The Wanderoo is too grave and melancholy to be trained to these drolleries.
[Footnote 1: _Macacus pileatus_, Shaw and Desmarest. The “bonneted Macaque” is common in the south and west; it is replaced on the neighbouring coast of the Peninsula of India by the Toque, _M. radiatus_, which closely resembles it in size, habit, and form, and in the peculiar appearance occasioned by the hairs radiating from the crown of the head. A spectacled monkey is _said_ to inhabit the low country near to Bintenne; but I have never seen one brought thence. A paper by Dr. TEMPLETON, in the _Mag. Nat. Hist._ n. s. xiv. p. 361, contains some interesting facts relative to the Rilawa of Ceylon.]
KNOX, in his captivating account of the island, gives an accurate description of both; the Rilawas, with “no beards, white faces, and long hair on the top of their heads, which parteth and hangeth down like a man’s, and which do a deal of mischief to the corn, and are so impudent that they will come into their gardens and eat such fruit as grows there. And the Wanderoos, some as large as our English spaniel dogs, of a darkish grey colour, and black faces with great white beards round from ear to ear, which makes them show just like old men. This sort does but little mischief, keeping in the woods, eating only leaves and buds of trees, but when they are catched they will eat anything.”
[Footnote 1: KNOX, _Historical Relation of Ceylon, an Island in the East Indies_.–P. i. ch. vi. p. 25. Fol. Lond. 1681. See an account of his captivity in SIR J. EMERSON TENNENT’S _Ceylon_, etc., Vol. II. p. 66 n.]
KNOX, whose experience during his long captivity was confined almost exclusively to the hill country around Kandy, spoke in all probability of one large and comparatively powerful species, _Presbytes ursinus_, which inhabits the lofty forests, and which, as well as another of the same group, _P. Thersites_, was, till recently, unknown to European naturalists. The Singhalese word _Ouandura_ has a generic sense, and being in every respect the equivalent fur our own term of “monkey” it necessarily comprehends the low country species, as well as those which inhabit other parts of the island. In point of fact, there are no less than four animals in the island, each of which is entitled to the name of “wanderoo.” Each separate species has appropriated to itself a different district of the wooded country, and seldom encroaches on the domain of its neighbours.
[Footnote 1: Down to a very late period, a large and somewhat repulsive-looking monkey, common to the Malabar coast, the Silenus veter, _Linn._, was, from the circumstance of his possessing a “great white beard,” incorrectly assumed to be the “wanderoo” of Ceylon, described by KNOX; and under that usurped name it has figured in every author from Buffon to the present time. Specimens of the true Singhalese species were, however, received in Europe; but in the absence of information in this country as to their actual habitat, they were described, first by Zimmerman, on the continent, under the name of, _Leucoprymnus cephalopterus_, and subsequently by Mr. E. Bennett, under that of _Semnopithecus Nestor_ (_Proc. Zool. Soc._ pt. i. p. 67: 1833); the generic and specific characters being on this occasion most carefully pointed out by that eminent naturalist. Eleven years later Dr. Templeton forwarded to the Zoological Society a description, accompanied by drawings, of the wanderoo of the western maritime districts of Ceylon, and noticed the fact that the wanderoo of authors (_S. veter_) was not to be found in the island except as an introduced species in the custody of the Arab horse-dealers, who visit the port of Colombo at stated periods. Mr. Waterhouse, at the meeting (_Proc. Zool. Soc._ p. 1: 1844) at which this communication was read, recognised the identity of the subject of Dr. Templeton’s description with that already laid before them by Mr. Bennett; and from this period the species in question was believed to truly represent the wanderoo of Knox. The later discovery, however, of the _P. ursinus_ by Dr. Kelaart, in the mountains amongst which we are assured that Knox spent so many years of captivity, reopens the question, but at the same time appears to me clearly to demonstrate that in this latter we have in reality the animal to which his narrative refers.]
1. Of the four species found in Ceylon, the most numerous in the island, and the one best known in Europe, is the Wanderoo of the low country, the _P. cephalopterus_ of Zimmerman. Although common in the southern and western provinces, it is never found at a higher elevation than 1300 feet. It is an active and intelligent creature, little larger than the common bonneted Macaque, and far from being so mischievous as others of the monkeys in the island. In captivity it is remarkable for the gravity of its demeanour and for an air of melancholy in its expression and movements which are completely in character with its snowy beard and venerable aspect. In disposition it is gentle and confiding, sensible in the highest degree of kindness, and eager for endearing attention, uttering a low plaintive cry when its sympathies are excited. It is particularly cleanly in its habits when domesticated, and spends much of its time in trimming its fur, and carefully divesting its hair of particles of dust.
[Footnote 1: Leucoprymnus Nestor, _Bennett_.]
Those which I kept at my house near Colombo were chiefly fed upon plantains and bananas, but for nothing did they evince a greater partiality than the rose-coloured flowers of the red hibiscus (H. _rosa-sinensis_).
These they devoured with unequivocal gusto; they likewise relished the leaves of many other trees, and even the bark of a few of the more succulent ones. A hint might possibly be taken from this circumstance for improving the regimen of monkeys in menageries, by the occasional admixture of a few fresh leaves and flowers with their solid and substantial dietary.
A white monkey, taken between Ambepusse and Kornegalle, where they are said to be numerous, was brought to me to Colombo. Except in colour, it had all the characteristics of _Presbytes cephalopterus_. So striking was its whiteness that it might have been conjectured to be an albino, but for the circumstance that its eyes and face were black. I have heard that white monkeys have been seen near the Ridi-galle Wihara in Seven Korles and also at Tangalle; but I never saw another specimen. The natives say they are not uncommon, and KNOX that they are “milk-white both in body and face; but of this sort there is not such plenty.” The Rev. R. SPENCE HARDY mentions, in his learned work on _Eastern Monachism_, that on the occasion of his visit to the great temple of Dambool, he encountered a troop of white monkeys on the rock in which it is situated–which were, doubtless, a variety of the Wanderoo. PLINY was aware of the fact that white monkeys are occasionally found in India.
[Footnote 1: KNOX, pt. i.e. vi. p. 25.]
[Footnote 2: _Eastern Monachism_. c: xix; p. 204.]
[Footnote 3: PLINY, Nat. Hist. I. viii. c. xxxii.]
When observed in their native wilds, a party of twenty or thirty of these creatures is generally busily engaged in the search for berries and buds. They are seldom to be seen on the ground, except when they may have descended to recover seeds or fruit which have fallen at the foot of their favourite trees. When disturbed, their leaps are prodigious: but, generally speaking, their progress is made not so much by _leaping_ as by swinging from branch to branch, using their powerful arms alternately; and when baffled by distance, flinging themselves obliquely so as to catch the lower boughs of an opposite tree, the momentum acquired by their descent being sufficient to cause a rebound of the branch, that carries them upwards again, till they can grasp a higher and more distant one, and thus continue their headlong flight. In these perilous achievements, wonder is excited less by the surpassing agility of these little creatures, frequently encumbered as they are by their young, which cling to them in their career, than by the quickness of their eye and the unerring accuracy with which they seem almost to calculate the angle at which a descent will enable them to cover a given distance, and the recoil to attain a higher altitude.
2. The low country Wanderoo is replaced in the hills by the larger species, _P. ursinus_, which inhabits the mountain zone. The natives, who designate the latter the _Maha_ or Great Wanderoo, to distinguish it from the _Kaloo_, or black one, with which they are familiar, describe it as much wilder, and more powerful than its congener of the lowland forests. It is rarely seen by Europeans, this portion of the country having till very recently been but partially opened; and even now it is difficult to observe its habits, as it seldom approaches the few roads which wind through these deep solitudes. At early morning, ere the day begins to dawn, its loud and peculiar howl, which consists of a quick repetition of the sounds _how how!_ maybe frequently heard in the mountain jungles, and forms one of the characteristic noises of these lofty situations. It was first captured by Dr. Kelaart in the woods near Nuera-ellia, and from its peculiar appearance it has been named _P. ursinus_ by Mr. Blyth.
[Footnote 1: Mr. Blyth quotes as authority for this trivial name a passage from MAJOR FORBES’ _Eleven Years in Ceylon;_ and I can vouch for the graphic accuracy of the remark.–“A species of very large monkey, that passed some distance before me, when resting on all fours, looked so like a Ceylon bear, that I nearly took him for one.”]
3. The _P. Thersites_, which is chiefly distinguished from the others by wanting the head tuft, is so rare that it was for some time doubtful whether the single specimen procured by Dr. Templeton from the Nuera-kalawa, west of Trincomalie, and on which Mr. Blyth conferred this new name, was in reality native; but the occurrence of a second, since identified by Dr. Kelaart, has established its existence as a separate species. Like the common wanderoo, the one obtained by Dr. Templeton was partial to fresh vegetables, plantains, and fruit; but he ate freely boiled rice, beans, and gram. He was fond of being noticed and petted, stretching out his limbs in succession to be scratched, drawing himself up so that his ribs might be reached by the finger, closing his eyes during the operation, and evincing his satisfaction by grimaces irresistibly ludicrous.
4. The _P. Priamus_ inhabits the northern and eastern provinces, and the wooded hills which occur in these portions of the island. In appearance it differs both in size and in colour from the common wanderoo, being larger and more inclined to grey; and in habits it is much less reserved. At Jaffna, and in other parts of the island where the population is comparatively numerous, these monkeys become so familiarised with the presence of man as to exhibit the utmost daring and indifference. A flock of them will take possession of a Palmyra palm; and so effectually can they crouch and conceal themselves among the leaves that, on the slightest alarm, the whole party becomes invisible in an instant. The presence of a dog, however, excites such an irrepressible curiosity that, in order to watch his movements, they never fail to betray themselves. They may be frequently seen congregated on the roof of a native hut: and, some years ago, the child of a European clergyman stationed near Jaffna having been left on the ground by the nurse, was so teased and bitten by them as to cause its death.
The Singhalese have the impression that the remains of a monkey are never to be found in the forest; a belief which they have embodied in the proverb that “he who has seen a white crow, the nest of a paddi bird, a straight coco-nut tree, or a dead monkey, is certain to live for ever.” This piece of folk-lore has evidently reached Ceylon from India, where it is believed that persons dwelling on the spot where a hanuman monkey, _Semnopithecus entellus_, has been killed, will die, that even its bones are unlucky, and that no house erected where they are hid under ground can prosper. Hence when a dwelling is to be built, it is one of the employments of the Jyotish philosophers to ascertain by their science that none such are concealed; and Buchanan observes that “it is, perhaps, owing to this fear of ill-luck that no native will acknowledge his having seen a dead hanuman.”
[Footnote 1: BUCHANAN’S _Survey of Bhagulpoor_, p. 142. At Gibraltar it is believed that the body of a _dead monkey_ has never been found on the rock.]
The only other quadrumanous animal found in Ceylon is the little loris, which, from its sluggish movements, nocturnal habits, and consequent inaction during the day, has acquired the name of the “Ceylon Sloth.”
[Footnote 1: Loris graeilis, _Geof_.]
[Illustration: THE LORIS.]
There are two varieties in the island; one of the ordinary fulvous brown, and another larger, whose fur is entirely black. A specimen of the former was sent to me from Chilaw, on the western coast, and lived for some time at Colombo, feeding on rice, fruit, and vegetables. It was partial to ants and, other insects, and was always eager for milk or the bone of a fowl. The naturally slow motion of its limbs enables the loris to approach its prey so stealthily that it seizes birds before they can be alarmed by its presence. The natives assert that it has been known to strangle the pea-fowl at night, to feast on the brain. During the day the one which I kept was usually asleep in the strange position represented on the last page; its perch firmly grasped with both hands, its back curved into a ball of soft fur, and its head hidden deep between its legs. The singularly-large and intense eyes of the loris have attracted the attention, of the Singhalese, who capture the creature for the purpose of extracting them as charms and love-potions, and this they are said to effect by holding the little animal to the fire till its eyeballs burst. Its Tamil name is _thaxangu_, or “thin-bodied;” and hence a deformed child or an emaciated person has acquired in the Tamil districts the same epithet. The light-coloured variety of the loris in Ceylon has a spot on its forehead, somewhat resembling the _namam_, or mark worn by the worshippers of Vishnu; and, from this peculiarity, it is distinguished as the _Nama-thavangu_.
[Footnote 1: There is an interesting notice of the Loris of Ceylon by Dr. TEMPLETON, in the _Mag. Nat. Hist._ 1844, ch. xiv. p. 362.]
II. CHEIROPTERA. _Bats_.–The multitude of _bats_ is one of the features of the evening landscape; they abound in every cave and subterranean passage, in the tunnels on the highways, in the galleries of the fortifications, in the roofs of the bungalows, and the ruins of every temple and building. At sunset they are seen issuing from their diurnal retreats to roam through the twilight in search of crepuscular insects, and as night approaches and the lights in the rooms attract the night-flying lepidoptera, the bats sweep round the dinner-table and carry off their tiny prey within the glitter of the lamps. Including the frugivorous section about sixteen species have been identified in Ceylon; and remarkable varieties of two of these are peculiar to the island. The colours of some of them are as brilliant as the plumage of a bird, bright yellow, deep orange, and a rich ferruginous brown inclining to red.
Rhinolophus affinis? _var_. rubidus, _Kelaart_. Hipposideros murinus, _var_. fulvus, _Kelaart_. Hipposideros speoris, _var_. aureus, _Kelaart_. Kerivoula picta, _Pallas_.
Scotophilus Heathii, _Horsf_.]
But of all the bats, the most conspicuous from its size and numbers, and the most interesting from its habits, is the rousette of Ceylon;–the “flying fox,” as it is called by Europeans, from the similarity to that animal in its head and ears, its bright eyes, and intelligent little face. In its aspect it has nothing of the disagreeable and repulsive look so common amongst the ordinary vespertilionidae; it likewise differs from them in the want of the nose-leaf, as well as of the tail. In the absence of the latter, its flight is directed by means of a membrane attached to the inner side of each of the hind legs, and kept distended at the lower extremity by a projecting bone, just as a fore-and-aft sail is distended by a “gaff.”
[Footnote 1: Pteropus Edwardsii, _Geoff_.]
[Illustration: FLYING FOXES.]
In size the body measures from ten to twelve inches in length, but the arms are prolonged, and especially the metacarpal bones and phalanges of the four fingers over which the leathery wings are distended, till the alar expanse measures between four and five feet. Whilst the function of these metamorphosed limbs in sustaining flight entitles them to the designation of “wings,” they are endowed with another faculty, the existence of which essentially distinguishes them from the feathery wings of a bird, and vindicates the appropriateness of the term _Cheiro-ptera_, or “winged hands,” by which the bats are designated. Over the entire surface of the thin membrane of which they are formed, sentient nerves of the utmost delicacy are distributed, by means of which the animal is enabled during the darkness to direct its motions with security, avoiding objects against contact with which at such times its eyes and other senses would be insufficient to protect it. Spallanzani ascertained the perfection of this faculty by a series of cruel experiments, by which he demonstrated that bats, even after their eyes had been destroyed, and their external organs, of smell and hearing obliterated, were still enabled to direct their flight with unhesitating confidence, avoiding even threads suspended to intercept them. But after ascertaining the fact, Spallanzani was slow to arrive at its origin; and ascribed the surprising power to the existence of some sixth supplementary sense, the enjoyment of which was withheld from other animals. Cuvier, however, dissipated the obscurity by showing the seat of this extraordinary endowment to be in the wings, the superficies of which retains the exquisite sensitiveness to touch that is inherent in the palms of the human hand and the extremities of the fingers, as well as in the feet of some of the mammalia. The face and head of the _Pteropus_ are covered with brownish-grey hairs, the neck and chest are dark ferruginous grey, and the rest of the body brown, inclining to black.
[Footnote 1: [Greek: cheir] the “hand,” and [Greek: pteron] a “wing.”]
[Footnote 2: See BELL _On the Hand_, ch. iii. p. 70;]
[Footnote 3: See article on _Cheiroptera_, in TODD’S _Cyclopiadia of Anatomy and Physiology_, vol. i. p. 599.]
These active and energetic creatures, though chiefly frugivorous, are to some extent insectivorous also, as attested by their teeth, as well as by their habits. They feed, amongst other things, on the guava, the plantain, the rose-apple, and the fruit of the various fig-trees. Flying foxes are abundant in all the maritime districts, especially at the season when the _pulum-imbul_, one of the silk-cotton trees, is putting forth its flower-buds, of which they are singularly fond. By day they suspend themselves from the highest branches, hanging by the claws of the hind legs, with the head turned upwards, and pressing the chin against the breast. At sunset taking wing, they hover, with a murmuring sound occasioned by the beating of their broad membranous wings, around the fruit trees, on which they feed till morning, when they resume their pensile attitude as before.
[Footnote 1: Those which I have examined have four minute incisors in each jaw, with two canines and a very minute pointed tooth behind each canine. They have six molars in the upper jaw and ten in the lower, longitudinally grooved, and with a cutting edge directed backwards.]
[Footnote 2: Eriodendron Orientale, _Stead_.]
A favourite resort of these bats is to the lofty india-rubber trees, which on one side overhang the Botanic Gardens of Paradenia in the vicinity of Kandy. Thither for some years past, they have congregated, chiefly in the autumn, taking their departure when the figs of the _ficus elastica_ are consumed. Here they hang in such prodigious numbers, that frequently, large branches give way beneath their accumulated weight. Every forenoon, generally between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M., they take to wing, apparently for exercise, and possibly to sun their wings and fur, and dry them after the dews of the early morning. On these occasions, their numbers are quite surprising, flying in clouds as thick as bees or midges. After these recreations, they hurry back to their favourite trees, chattering and screaming like monkeys, and always wrangling and contending angrily for the most shady and comfortable places in which to hang for the rest of the day protected from the sun. The branches they resort to soon become almost divested of leaves, these being stripped off by the action of the bats, attaching and detaching themselves by means of their hooked feet. At sunset, they fly off to their feeding-grounds, probably at a considerable distance, as it requires a large area to furnish sufficient food for such multitudes.
In all its movements and attitudes, the action of the _Pteropus_ is highly interesting. If placed upon the ground, it is almost helpless, none of its limbs being calculated for progressive motion; it drags itself along by means of the hook attached to each of its extended thumbs, pushing at the same time with those of its hind feet. Its natural position is exclusively pensile; it moves laterally from branch to branch with great ease, by using each foot alternately, and climbs, when necessary, by means of its claws.
When at rest, or asleep, the disposition of the limbs is most curious. At such times it suspends itself by one foot only, bringing the other close to its side, and thus it is enabled to wrap itself in the ample folds of its wings, which envelop it like a mantle, leaving only its upturned head uncovered. Its fur is thus protected from damp and rain, and to some extent its body is sheltered from the sun.
As it collects its food by means of its mouth, either when on the wing, or when suspended within reach of it, the flying-fox is always more or less liable to have the spoil wrested from it by its intrusive companions, before it can make good its way to some secure retreat in which to devour it unmolested. In such conflicts they bite viciously, tear each other with their hooks, and scream incessantly, till, taking to flight, the persecuted one reaches some place of safety, where he hangs by one foot, and grasping the fruit he has secured in the claws and opposable thumb of the other, he hastily reduces it to lumps, with which he stuffs his cheek pouches till they become distended like those of a monkey; then suspended in safety, he commences to chew and suck the pieces, rejecting the refuse with his tongue.
To drink, which it does by lapping, the _Pteropus_ suspends itself head downwards from a branch above the water.
Insects, caterpillars, birds’ eggs, and young birds are devoured by them; and the Singhalese say that the flying-fox will even attack a tree snake. It is killed by the natives for the sake of its flesh, which, I have been told by a gentleman who has eaten of it, resembles that of the hare. It is strongly attracted to the coconut trees during the period when toddy is drawn for distillation, and exhibits, it is said, at such times, symptoms resembling intoxication.
[Footnote 1: In Western India the native Portuguese eat the flying-fox, and pronounce it delicate, and far from disagreeable in flavour.]
Neither the flying-fox, nor any other bat that I know of in Ceylon, ever hybernates.
There are several varieties (one of them peculiar to the island) of the horse-shoe-headed _Rhinolophus_, with the strange leaf-like appendage erected on the extremity of the nose.
It has been suggested that the insectivorous bats, though nocturnal, are deficient in that keen vision characteristic of animals which take their prey by night.
I doubt whether this conjecture be well founded; it certainly does not apply to the _Pteropus_ and the other frugivorous species, in which the faculty of sight is singularly clear. As regards the others, it is possible that in their peculiar oeconomy some additional power may be required to act in concert with that of vision, as in insects, touch is superadded, in its most sensitive development, to that of sight. It is probable that the noseleaf, which forms an extended screen stretched behind the nostrils in some of the bats, may be intended by nature to facilitate the collection and conduction of odours, just as the vast expansion of the shell of the ear in the same family is designed to assist in the collection of sounds–and thus to supplement their vision when in pursuit of prey in the dusk by the superior sensitiveness of the organs of hearing and smell.
One tiny little bat, not much larger than the humble bee, and of a glossy black colour, is sometimes to be seen about Colombo. It is so familiar and gentle that it will alight on the cloth during dinner, and manifests so little alarm that it seldom makes any effort to escape before a wine glass can be inverted to secure it.
[Footnote 1: It is a _very_ small Singhalese variety of Scotophilus Coromandelicus, _F. Cuv._]
Although not strictly in order, this seems not an inappropriate place to notice one of the most curious peculiarities connected with the bats–their singular parasite, the Nycteribia. On cursory observation this creature appears to have neither head, antennae, eyes, nor mouth; and the earlier observers of its structure satisfied themselves that the place of the latter was supplied by a cylindrical sucker, which, being placed between the shoulders, the insect had no option but to turn on its back to feed. Another anomaly was thought to compensate for this apparent inconvenience;–its three pairs of legs, armed with claws, are so arranged that they seem to be equally distributed over its upper and under sides, the creature being thus enabled to use them like hands, and to grasp the strong hairs above it while extracting its nourishment.
[Footnote 1: This extraordinary creature had formerly been discovered only on a few European bats. Joinville figured one which he found on the large roussette (the flying-fox), and says he had seen another on a bat of the same family. Dr. Templeton observed them in Ceylon in great abundance on the fur of the _Scotophilus Coromandelicus_, and they will, no doubt, be found on many others.]
It moves, in fact, by rolling itself rapidly along, rotating like a wheel on the extremities of its spokes, or like the clown in a pantomime, hurling himself forward on hands and feet alternately. Its celerity is so great that Colonel Montague, who was one of the first to describe it minutely, says its speed exceeds that of any known insect, and as its joints are so flexible as to yield in every direction (like what mechanics call a “ball and socket”), its motions are exceedingly grotesque as it tumbles through the fur of the bat.
[Footnote 1: Celeripes vespertilionis, _Mont. Lin. Trans._ xi. p.11.]
To enable it to attain its marvellous velocity, each foot is armed with two sharp hooks, with elastic opposable pads, so that the hair can not only be rapidly seized and firmly held, but as quickly disengaged, as the creature whirls away in its headlong career.
The insects to which it bears the nearest affinity, are the _Hippoboscidae_, or “spider flies,” that infest birds and horses; but, unlike them, the Nycteribia is unable to fly.
Its strangest peculiarity, and that which gave rise to the belief that it was headless, is its faculty when at rest of throwing back its head and pressing it close between its shoulders till the under side becomes uppermost, not a vestige of head being discernible where we would naturally look for it, and the whole seeming but a casual inequality on its back.
On closer examination this, apparent tubercle is found to have a leathery attachment like a flexible neck, and by a sudden jerk the little creature is enabled to project it forward into its normal position, when it is discovered to be furnished with a mouth, antennae, and four eyes, two on each side.
The organisation of such an insect is a marvellous adaptation of physical form to special circumstances. As the nycteribia has to make its way through fur and hairs, its feet are furnished with prehensile hooks that almost convert them into hands; and being obliged to conform to the sudden flights of its patron, and accommodate itself to inverted positions, all attitudes are rendered alike to it by the arrangement of its limbs, which enables it, after every possible gyration, to find itself always on its feet.
III. CARNIVORA.–_Bears_.–Of the _carnivora_, the one most dreaded by the natives of Ceylon, and the only one of the larger animals that makes the depths of the forest its habitual retreat, is the bear, attracted chiefly by the honey which is found in the hollow trees and clefts of the rocks. Occasionally spots of fresh earth are observed which have been turned up by the bears in search of some favourite root. They feed also on the termites and ants. A friend of mine traversing the forest, near Jaffna, at early dawn, had his attention attracted by the growling of a bear, that was seated upon a lofty branch, thrusting portions of a red-ants’ nest into his mouth with one paw, whilst with the other he endeavoured to clear his eyebrows and lips of the angry inmates, which bit and tortured him in their rage. The Ceylon bear is found in the low and dry districts of the northern and south-eastern coast, and is seldom met with on the mountains or the moist and damp plains of the west. It is furnished with a bushy tuft of hair on the back, between the shoulders, by which the young are accustomed to cling till sufficiently strong to provide for their own safety. During a severe drought that prevailed in the northern province in 1850, the district of Caretchy was so infested by bears that the Oriental custom of the women resorting to the wells was altogether suspended, as it was a common occurrence to find one of these animals in the water, unable to climb up the yielding and slippery soil, down which its thirst had impelled it to slide during the night.
[Footnote 1: Prochilus labiatus, _Blainville_.]
[Illustration: INDIAN BEAR.]
Although the structure of the bear shows him to be naturally omnivorous, he rarely preys upon flesh in Ceylon, and his solitary habits whilst in search of honey and fruits render him timid and retiring. Hence he evinces alarm on the approach of man or other animals, and, unable to make a rapid retreat, his panic, rather than any vicious disposition, leads him to become an assailant in self-defence. But so furious are his assaults under such circumstances that the Singhalese have a terror of his attack greater than that created by any other beast of the forest. If not armed with a gun, a native, in the places where bears abound, usually carries a light axe, called “kodelly,” with which to strike them on the head. The bear, on the other hand, always aims at the face, and, if successful in prostrating his victim, usually commences by assailing the eyes. I have met numerous individuals on our journeys who exhibited frightful scars from such encounters, the white seams of their wounds contrasting hideously with the dark colour of the rest of their bodies.
The Veddahs in Bintenne, whose principal stores consist of honey, live in dread of the bears, because, attracted by the perfume, they will not hesitate to attack their rude dwellings, when allured by this irresistible temptation. The Post-office runners, who always travel by night, are frequently exposed to danger from these animals, especially along the coast from Putlam to Aripo, where they are found in considerable numbers; and, to guard against surprise, they are accustomed to carry flambeaux, to give warning to the bears, and enable them to shuffle out of the path.
[Footnote 1: Amongst the Singhalese there is a belief that certain charms are efficacious in protecting them from the violence of bears, and those whose avocations expose them to encounters of this kind are accustomed to carry a talisman either attached to their neck or enveloped in the folds of their luxuriant hair. A friend of mine, writing of an adventure which occurred at Anarajapoora, thus describes an occasion on which a Moor, who attended him, was somewhat, rudely disabused of his belief in the efficacy of charms upon bears:–“Desiring to change the position of a herd of deer, the Moorman (with his charm) was sent across some swampy land to disturb them. As he was proceeding, we saw him suddenly turn from an old tree and run back with all speed, his hair becoming unfastened and like his clothes streaming in the wind. It soon became evident that he was flying from some terrific object, for he had thrown down his gun, and, in his panic, he was taking the shortest line towards us, which lay across a swamp covered with sedge and rushes that greatly impeded his progress, and prevented us approaching him, or seeing what was the cause of his flight. Missing his steps from one hard spot to another he repeatedly fell into the water, but he rose and resumed his flight. I advanced as far as the sods would bear my weight, but to go further was impracticable. Just within ball-range there was an open space, and, as the man gained it. I saw that he was pursued by a bear and two cubs. As the person of the fugitive covered the bear, it was impossible to fire without risk. At last he fall exhausted, and the bear being close upon him, I discharged both barrels. The first broke the bear’s shoulder, but this only made her more savage, and rising on her hind legs she advanced with ferocious prowls, when the second barrel, though I do not think it took effect, served to frighten her, for turning round she retreated, followed by the cubs. Some natives then waded through the mud to the Moorman, who was just exhausted, and would have been drowned but that he fell with his head upon a tuft of grass: the poor man was unable to speak, and for several weeks his intellect seemed confused. The adventure sufficed to satisfy him that he could not again depend upon a charm to protect him, from bears, though he always insisted that but for its having fallen from his hair where he had fastened it under his turban, the bear would not have ventured to attack him.”]
Leopards are the only formidable members of the tiger race in Ceylon, and they are neither very numerous nor very dangerous, as they seldom attack man. By the Europeans, the Ceylon leopard is erroneously called a _cheetah_, but the true “cheetah” (_felis jubata_),’ the hunting leopard of India, does not exist in the island.
[Footnote 1: Felis pardus, _Linn._ What is called a leopard, or a cheetah, in Ceylon, is in reality the true panther.]
[Footnote 2: A belief is prevalent at Trincomalie that a Bengal tiger inhabits the jungle in its vicinity; and the story runs that it escaped from the wreck of a vessel on which it had been embarked for England. Officers of the Government state positively that they have more than once come on it whilst hunting; and one gentleman of the Royal Engineers, who had seen it, assured me that he could not be mistaken as to its being a tiger of India, and one of the largest description.]
[Footnote 3: Mr. BAKER, in his _Eight Years in Ceylon_, has stated that there are two species of leopard in the island, one of which he implies is the Indian cheetah. But although he specifies discrepancies in size, weight, and marking between the varieties which he has examined, his data are not sufficient to identify any of them with the true _felis jubata_.]
There is a rare variety of the leopard which has been found in various parts of the island, in which the skin, instead of being spotted, is of a uniform black. Leopards frequent the vicinity of pasture hinds in quest of the deer and other peaceful animals which resort to them; and the villagers often complain of the destruction of their cattle by these formidable marauders. In relation to them, the natives have a curious but firm conviction that when a bullock is killed by a leopard, and, in expiring, falls so that _its right side is undermost_, the leopard will not return to devour it. I have been told by English sportsmen (some of whom share in the popular belief), that sometimes, when they have proposed to watch by the carcase of a bullock recently killed by a leopard, in the hope of shooting the spoiler on his return in search of his prey, the native owner of the slaughtered animal, though earnestly desiring to be avenged, has assured them that it would be in vain, as the beast having fallen on its right side, the leopard not return.
[Footnote 1: F. melas, _Peron_ and _Leseur_.]
[Illustration: LEOPARD AND CHEETAH.]